Through academic, sports, and arts programs, the Breakthrough Youth Network surrounds young people and their families with a network of caring adults. We call this the Network Model. In times of crisis, this support is crucial.

As the shelter-in-place order prompted state-wide school closures, staff, local teachers, and funders have worked together to ensure the students and families in East Garfield Park feel supported.

Programs Find Creative Ways to Care for Families

To continue serving more than 1,200 students, staff are stretching their skill sets and finding new ways to bring programs to youth.  

Since March, the Breakthrough Beginners have continued to connect with students daily. Teachers are uploading virtual lessons to YouTube, each classroom has a weekly Zoom call, and, as needed, teachers are connecting one-on-one with students. Additionally, every Friday, teachers bring educational materials and activities to students’ homes. 

“I feel like not only are we bringing these classroom experiences to the home, but we’re also bringing hope to the home. When the family and a child gets to wave to their teacher from the window or the doorstep, it’s just a sign that we’re all in this together,” said Lisa Gwin, Director of Early Childhood Education.

The Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program has prioritized supporting families as they transition to distance learning, connecting with families virtually and providing other essential resources.

The London Johnson Arts and Technology Academy is sharing art projects on YouTube, and programs like Boys and Girls Mentoring and cooking class have continued to connect virtually.

Breakthrrough Students in Cooking Class on Zoom

The Sports and Fitness Academy is posting daily workouts. Students and their families have also been encouraged to participate in Hoops in the House, an online fitness challenge organized by LISC Chicago as a way to encourage individuals to stay active during the stay-at-home order.

The Spirit of Collaboration in East Garfield Park

The Lavin Family Foundation has generously partnered with local restaurants like CREED on Lake, Turkey Chop, and Jimmie G’s to offer curbside meal pick up at the Breakthrough FamilyPlex. Through this unique collaboration, we are able to both support local businesses and provide hot meals for the families in East Garfield Park. 

Twice a week, staff distribute these meals to families, oftentimes also sharing gifts and notes of encouragement.  “We play music and create a positive atmosphere around the FamilyPlex, while also being able to stay connected with parents and kids in the neighborhood,” said Bill Curry, Chief Program Officer of the Breakthrough Youth Network.

Though the future of youth programs remains uncertain, through collaboration and creativity, Breakthrough is committed to supporting students and their families.