Home > Our Priorities > Youth Development SHARE:

Youth Development

Growing up is hard to do. Kids and youth do better when they have multiple types of supports that help them grow, learn, and ultimately mature into successful, engaged adults. What happens at home and in school are fundamental to healthy development; community groups and structured activities can also play a central role in helping kids learn keys to success such as resilience, leadership, and relationship-building. That’s why Voices’ multifaceted approach to youth development includes efforts both inside and outside the classroom, such as afterschool and out-of-school time programs (below), community schools, and social and emotional learning.

You’re invited!
Preview NEW Illinois Afterschool Quality Standards
+ Share your suggestions

New Afterschool Quality Standards are being created for afterschool programs by the ACT Now Coalition and its partners! The Standards are a resource afterschool and youth providers and funders can use in their efforts to deliver high quality programs. Standards will provide a common definition of “quality” in Illinois and lay the foundation for developing comprehensive quality improvement systems.

The Standards are in draft form. Meeting participants will get an early look at the Standards and be asked to provide their feedback and suggestions. We need to hear from you!



The ACT Now Coalition and afterschool opportunities

Quality, out-of-school time programs help children and families learn and grow. That’s why Voices is a leader of the ACT Now Coalition, a statewide out-of-school time and youth development advocacy effort working to ensure all Illinois youth have access to quality, affordable opportunities. Afterschool programs, such as Illinois’ Teen REACH and 21st Century Community Learning Centers, improve academic performance while reducing the dropout rate and increasing the number of high school graduates. Evidence-based programs take a hands-on, engaging approach to tackling key skills such as reading, math, and science in ways that complement what’s being taught in classrooms without duplicating efforts. This can help at-risk or struggling students reconnect with school rather than drop out.

Out-of-school time opportunities offer more than academics: they provide leadership skills, enrichment, and career preparation for all students. They also keep youth engaged in productive activities from the time school ends until working parents come home, which is important for keeping kids safe and helping them make healthy choices to avoid drug use, crime, and other risky behavior. These benefits make investments in out-of-school time cost-effective; it’s much less expensive to help youth graduate on time and stay out of trouble than it is to pay for remedial education, jail, teen pregnancy, or substance abuse treatment.

Recent media stories highlight the effectiveness of afterschool programs and the collaborative efforts of businesses, schools, and communities in creating brighter futures for Illinois youth.
Read “Illinois must address youth opportunity drought”
Listen to “Home Alone After School”
Listen to “New Report: No Work and No School for Record Number of Youth”

Out-of-school time activities increase parents’ job security: When parents know their children are safe and engaged — and it’s affordable — they are better able to work the hours they need to support their families. Despite these proven benefits, far too many youth don’t have access to quality, affordable out-of-school time programs. Voices and the ACT Now Coalition work to address this need and ensure programs continue to evolve and grow. 

For more information

Contact the Youth Development team

Kelley Talbot, Director, Youth Development (312) 516-5572
Samantha Hedges, Youth Development Associate (312) 516-5574