Youth development program helps lift children out of poverty into adulthood


Newswise – A free youth development program for black children and teens living in a low-income, segregated community has demonstrated long-term positive educational and financial outcomes among its former students, according to a study by Ann & Children’s Hospital. Robert H. Lurie of Chicago published in the newspaper BMC Public Health.

A 33-year follow-up found that former college graduates outnumbered their peers who did not participate in the youth development program twice as many. For each year of enrollment in the program, former students were 10% more likely to complete college. Graduates were also more likely to save money at the end of the month and report a better standard of living than their parents.

“Our study shows that a relatively simple intervention can break the cycle of generational poverty, especially as young people spend years in the program,” said lead author Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Patrick M Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities in Lurie. pediatrics and professor of pediatrics, medical education, and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Sheehan is also the former chairman of the Chicago Youth Programs Board of Directors and the medical director of the clinic associated with it.

Dr. Sheehan co-founded the Cabrini Green Youth Program with Joseph DiCara, MD, hospitalist at Lurie Children’s and lead author of the study, when they were both medical students. Since then, what is now called Chicago Youth Programs has grown into an organization serving youth and families in at least 30 of the city’s 50 neighborhoods.

The programs offer recreational activities in a safe and nurturing space, as well as reading, tutoring, college preparation, career counseling and a medical clinic. Participants typically spend eight to ten years in the program.

“Forming long-term relationships with caring adults outside of the family creates a strong stabilizing force for the children in our program, and the impact of these social connections is remarkable,” said Dr. Arnold-Gorter Family Professorship in Healthy Communities. “Our results demonstrate that this approach is effective, even despite all the structural challenges young people face growing up in poverty and experiencing neighborhood violence. We can make a huge difference in children’s lives simply by being there for the long haul.

To learn more about Chicago youth programs, whether it’s volunteering or enrolling a child, visit

Research at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago is conducted by the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving the health of children, transforming pediatric medicine, and ensuring a healthier future through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked among the nation’s top children’s hospitals by US news and world report. It is the pediatric training ground of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.


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