The YMEN model is based on building life-long mentoring relationships of trust and accountability. Staff live in the neighborhood, showing youth that there are positive role models among them. With the support of funders such as United Way, Chicago Community Trust, Steans Foundation, Polk Brothers, and McGowan Fund, YMEN keeps young African American males off the streets. In doing so, none of YMEN's youth have been killed in its 15-year history. "YMEN is a safe place for young men to grow, and Lawndale recognizes that," said Mike Trout, founder and Executive Director.
Trout continued, "43 percent of those incarcerated in our State Department of Juvenile Justice only have a grade school diploma. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) only graduates 35% of black males from 12th grade, while 87% of YMEN students graduate from high school. We need to see more high school graduates in order to reduce the prison population and cost."
YMEN provides college scholarships to assist YMEN alumni, and brings them back into Lawndale during and after college to mentor other youth. YMEN has created a white-collar internship program to attract employers who want to recruit college students from the inner city, and has built a campus to house these young adult leaders in Lawndale.
"In 2010, the Illinois DJJ spent $73,000 per person to incarcerate 1,339 African American youth," continued Trout. "That's $98 million to lock them up! In contrast, it costs CPS and YMEN, combined, only $15,000 per youth annually. Our solution works."
Since 1996, YMEN has been fulfilling its mission to prepare young men in North Lawndale for mature, responsible leadership through a comprehensive college preparatory program, entrepreneurial training, a long-term mentoring network, and community service. YMEN strongly believes that developing life-long relationships with students will offset the negative external pressures they face in their neighborhood.
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