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New and Expanded Youth Programming Highlights Chicago Park District 2020 Budget

Today the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners approved the District’s 2020 Budget which includes $110 million in investments toward programming for youth, teens and young adults. Highlights include new employment training for teens and additional resources for Chicago Park District’s after-school programming. These investments advance Mayor Lightfoot’s citywide strategy to connect youth from all neighborhoods to enriching experiences that allow them to explore their interests, develop passions and build pathways to productive futures.  
In the coming year, the Chicago Park District will enhance its long-standing Park Kids after-school program to provide even more resources to Chicago students and their families. The program - which offers students, ages 6 to 12 a variety of physical activities, arts and crafts, homework time and more on school days between 3pm and 6pm - will now be offered on CPS non-attendance days including holidays, teacher institute days as well as during Winter and Spring break. This expansion will help to address equity gaps for our city’s young people who most need support by providing a safe space and engaging activities during times when they otherwise may not have access to these resources. The District is also partnering with various community service providers to bring STEM, coding and other enriching activities to participants during after-school hours. In addition, meal service will be available at 100+ Park Kids locations to ensure children have access to a healthy meal. Expanded programming is anticipated to impact 13,000 children and their families.

Also in 2020, the Chicago Park District will extend work experience opportunities to teens, ages 13 to 15 through the Sports and Recreation Leadership Apprentice Program in partnership with After School Matters. The 20-week program, offered in the fall and spring, will engage teens in sports and other areas of interest while exposing them to a broad range of careers in recreation. Students will then have the opportunity to earn stipends through summer work experience or gain seasonal employment with the Chicago Park District. The District remains the largest, direct seasonal employer of youth. Last summer, 3,000 teens and young adults worked as seasonal recreational leaders, attendants, lifeguards and laborers.  

"In 2020, we will continue to make meaningful investments in our city’s most precious resource - our youth,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly. “From sports to culture and everything between, park programs allow our young people to explore their interests, positively engage in their communities and provide invaluable support for their families.”
Next summer, even more Chicago children will have the opportunity to explore water awareness, conservation, safety and recreation on Lake Michigan. The Chicago Park District’s Sailing program is expanding to expose more children, ages 8 to 18 to the sporting and ecological experience. Young sailors will learn rigging, terminology, points of sail, rules, basic navigation, boat-handling, docking, upwind and downwind sailing, all in a safe & fun atmosphere. In 2020, the District in partnership with Endeavor Chicago and Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation, will offer youth sailing programs at six locations, serving 1,000 children and teens. 

In response to the growing interest in soccer among Chicago’s youth, the Chicago Park District, in partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, will bring the “Soccer for Success” program to parks where soccer mini-pitches have been built. Programming for youth ages 6 to 12 will include soccer fundamentals, wellness and personal development. Soccer like other organized sports promotes physical activity, critical thinking, teamwork and other principles that are valuable on and off the field. “Soccer for Success” will launch at 11 parks including locations in Englewood, Grand Crossing, Brighton Park and Eastside as part of after-school programming. Additional locations will be added in the Spring. The program will serve 1,000 children during its first year.    

For the third consecutive year, the Chicago Park District will host Teen Opportunity Fairs January 31st at Malcolm X College, February 15th at Truman College and March 14th at Kennedy King College.  These events create valuable opportunities for Chicago teens, ages 13 to 19, to learn about programs, educational and vocational opportunities and job readiness. Participants can take part in workshops, mock interviews and connect with professionals from the District, sister agencies and community organizations. More than 2,000 teens are expected to attend. 
To put equity at the forefront of youth programming and further ensure that programs remain accessible and affordable in the coming year – particularly for children and families who would otherwise not be able to afford enrichment activities or have access to safe spaces during after-school and summer hours - the Chicago Park District will hold the line on day camp and other program fees. In 2020, families in need can still access more than $3 million in financial assistance in addition to built-in discounts realized through the District’s tiered pricing structure.  

The District’s efforts are part of Mayor Lightfoot’s plan to create a citywide ecosystem of opportunities and services for Chicago’s youth – K through 12. The goal is for every young person to have access to a diverse menu of programs and opportunities that inspire, engage, support and make a meaningful impact.
The Chicago Park District’s 2020 investments in youth underscore the District’s commitment to support Chicago’s youngest residents and provide unprecedented resources to families, particularly in historically disinvested neighborhoods.

This past year, the Chicago Park District saw record program registration numbers including 55,000 summer day camp enrollments, 30,000 teen program enrollments, 21,000 Learn To Swim enrollments, 13,000 Park Kids after-school program enrollments and 2,000 Junior Bear football enrollments. In addition, the District offered 1,200 individual programs at no cost to Chicago families in 2019 and has committed to continuing that level of support in the new year.