East Chicago has been experiencing a decline in graduation numbers for the last decade. Many teens and young adults drop out of school, and those who graduate are still unprepared.  The result is they are not fully prepared to succeed in the adult working world.

The New Twin City Alliance of East Chicago received a grant from the Foundations of East Chicago (FEC) to help break the cycle of generational poverty. With the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), teens and young adults learn the skills necessary to be “work ready” in the post-secondary world. The program is designed to attract students through receiving a paycheck, while teaching them viable skills that will help them succeed.

YEP isn’t just a summer work program. Students attend 10 two hour workshops where they learn basic adult skills. Banking, application and resume writing, interviewing, bill paying, budgeting, punctuality and other skills are taught. Participants work in jobs determined by various supervisors. Examples include teacher aides for local day cares and summer programs, maintenance assistant, food bank assistant and more. In addition, the participants in this program are paid, and YEP takes half of their pay and deposits it into a savings account. The money is only accessible upon high school graduation, thus contributing to the development of a “saving” mentality.

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