‘Cradle to Career’ to help Evanston youth

If you want help becoming a more successful, satisfied and productive citizen, Evanston’s new Cradle to Career initiative is for you.  The coalition of over 30 Evanston organizations formed earlier this year has the goal of helping all Evanston youth be self-sufficient by age 23.

Cradle to Career is about recognizing that no single institution in our community can make the difference for young people growing up,” said Cradle to Career Executive Director Sheila Merry. “We want to make sure we’re supporting our young people and families from the very beginning until they make it into a successful career.”

While Evanston organizations have historically worked to help Evanston youth, never before has a group of this size formed with aligned goals. This collective impact effort plans to focus on six areas: literacy, community poverty, youth and family violence, health, career and post-secondary readiness, and parent connections.

Senior Samantha Rudy applaudes the fact that Cradle to Career focuses on the young. “ I think that a lot of organizations that try to help Evanston students are too late,” she explained. “Organizations miss their chance to get to kids at an age where they can really be impacted.”

On the other end, the organization is focused on jobs for high school and college students. “I think the initiative should focus on recently graduated students,” commented junior Caroline Luft. “ Especially those that think that college isn’t the right path. College isn’t for everyone.”

Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, a founder of Cradle to Career, recognizes that Evanston is still facing unresolved issues for its young people, whether they are newborns or young adults. “For all our working together and collaborating, we still have a lot of unresolved issues,” he explained. “Collective impact says that we are all going to share the responsibility for these outcomes. We are collectively going to own the issues and collectively contribute to the solutions.”

Cradle to Career plans to hold their first official meetings in May. “We will decide how to organize committees, and I hope we’ll have an important role for students to be involved,” commented Merry.

Rudy is looking forward to greater student involvement.. “Students should give feedback on what aspects of Cradle to Career they like and don’t like,” she said. “This should be a publicized thing that people in the community know about.”

Freshman Anika Blitzstein is one of many students interested in getting involved. “We need to start giving all student equal chances. I think it’s important for people to think about the future. Having a clear path ahead of you is the best thing.”Merry Photo