Today is the Affordable Care Act deadline to sign-up for health insurance.  You can bet YOS counselor Dianne Wilson will be hard at work, like she has been for weeks, getting the uninsured enrolled.

Dianne has had great success signing up the uninsured in the Chicago area with some unconventional approaches.  On her own, she is having greater success than some organizations with large staffs.

Dianne’s weekly quota from Get Covered Illinois for new sign-ups is 15.  She’s easily quadrupled her quota (some weeks even more) by going out into the community to find the uninsured at homeless shelters, plasma centers, church groups and home visits.  Her persistence is so great, she’s known as the “Obama lady” in some of the neighborhoods where she works, like Melrose Park.

“I have a lot of experience navigating my way in communities,” said Dianne.  “I’m happy to be able to use my skills to help people get access to health insurance.”

Her work is having a larger impact than just health insurance.  For example, at a homeless shelter, she found a family (mom, dad and two daughters) who live in their car.  In addition to getting them signed up for health insurance, Dianne found them housing through a residency program, which also helped the dad find work at a loading dock.

Dianne is very passionate about her work and it shows in her results.  Congratulations Dianne!

With the opening of the newly renovated Austin Office at 5910 W. Division a ribbon cutting

Yulee Kim, program manager for Austin, cuts the ribbon on the new office.

ceremony was held for YOS staff to celebrate the opening of their new home! Staff members toured the new facility and were treated to a special lunch to commemorate this exciting occasion.  The office is now more spacious and updated with new tools that will help grow the many programs held at the Austin Office. The office was officially open to clients as of February 17th.

YOS Austin Staff posing in front of their new office!


Updates to the Austin office also allow more functionality to the space. Carpet tiles in the group rooms can be replaced individually when there is wear and tear. The group room has also been outfitted with a divider so that two programs can meet in the same room without disturbing each other. A flat screen T.V. has been mounted in the office with a variety of video game consoles that promote healthy, nonviolent activities. The reception area has been equipped with security cameras to keep and eye on the entrances and exits. In the near future YOS plans to hire a clerk to monitor the overall well-being and safety of the facility.

A computer lab, with new equipment, has been set up to provide youth with a space for

A demonstration on the moving walls!

homework, supplemental academic assistance and recreational uses.  The durable and flexible furniture provided Michelle Menconi and her team at Henricksen can hold up to wear and tear and be easily moved for different types of programming. YOS is pleased to start a new chapter in the Austin community. Thanks you to all those who attended and all of those who helped make this renovation successful.

Visit our Facebook page for more pictures of the new office.

It is our distinct pleasure to announce the official opening of the renovated Austin Office at 5910 W. Division starting on February 17th.  Over the past five years, YOS staff, donors and contractors have labored endlessly to renovate the facility. The main goal of this project was to make the Austin Office safe for clients and provide more space for programs. The new facility will permit the consolidation of counseling and juvenile justice program services into a single location. A new computer lab has been built within the facility and with this new technology center clients will have access to a wealth of helpful program materials and learning tools.

A special thanks to IFF, a nonprofit lender and real estate consultant that largely funded the project and the Chicago Energy Efficiency Program who also helped to fund the project. Harley Ellis Devereaux donated pro-bono architectural services. Youth Outreach Properties Board Member Craig Pierson of HOK Architecture contributed to the strategic planning for this project.  A huge thank you to YOS Board Member Michelle Menconi her company Henricksen for acquiring all the new furniture for the space! The new furniture will allow the Austin Office to be a more flexible work space for programming as well as community meetings and other events.

Take a look at the gallery below for before and after shots of the Austin facility. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held to commemorate the opening of the Office. YOS continues to be a pillar of hope for the Austin Community, providing services for the many youth in the area.    


Everyday, thousands of Chicago-area youth struggle with feelings of sadness, loneliness and neglect. For at-risk kids, those feelings can lead to substance abuse, crime or dropping out of school. It doesn’t have to be that way.

A YOS client, Nicole, knew these feelings all too well. Nicole, 15, was skipping school, receiving suspensions, getting into physical altercations, and using narcotics based drugs.  Last year, Nicole was assigned to a therapeutic day school after being arrested and charged for stealing a cell phone. The Juvenile Court also recommended that Nicole become part of YOS’ MST program.  Katie Harkrader, a YOS MST Therapist, was assigned to Nicole’s case.

Katie worked closely with Nicole and her family to create a positive

communication structure.  Katie also taught Nicole coping skills for dealing with her anger. Now, when Nicole feels anger, she knows to take a deep breath and count to ten. She can leave the room when she’s feeling upset to calm down. Nicole also learned to channel her feelings into a journal.

With the help of the MST program, Nicole has changed her perspective on life. Nicole plans to graduate high school, attend college and wants to become a social

worker herself one day. She is no longer saying “Why Me?” she is now saying “LovingMe.”

Learn more about YOS’ February campaign challenge: Loving Me.

Youth at the St. Angela's office receive their holiday gifts

The annual YOS gift drive was a success with over 400 presents donated by our corporate partners and individual donors.

“We are very fortunate to have so many amazing partners supporting us this holiday season. Donations have been pouring in and our youth will be delighted to be opening their presents!” says Erica Eckhardt, YOS Philanthropy Coordinator.

Special thanks goes out to those that donated at Niles North, Framework Communication, AbelsonTaylor and Old Navy.

Our board members and individual donors were also very generous this year. Michelle Menconi donated 44 gift cards and John Fakhoury from Framework Communications donated all the winter clothing needed to reach our goal.

Gingerbread and cookie decorating is an annual tradition at the St. Angela's office

This year the holiday gift drive supported youth from all YOS offices.  The St. Angela’s office continued a four year tradition of a holiday party that includes gingerbread and cookie decorating and distributing holiday gifts.  Special thanks to YOS counselor Katie Love who baked many batches of cookies for this party.  Pro-social activities like this holiday party are especially important for St. Angela’s probation clients, who are learning how to enjoy themselves while avoiding substance abuse and further involvement with the criminal justice system.

Thank you to all of our corporate partners and individual gift givers for making this a special holiday season for YOS and our youth!

An AblesonTaylor employee helps YOS staff load the van with holiday gifts.

Youth at Maywood by the Christmas Tree!

Youth at Maywood by the Christmas Tree!

The holiday season spirit is in full swing at the YOS counseling and prevention offices. On December 11th, the Maywood office held a holiday party for prevention clients and CeaseFire. The youth at the center decorated a spectacular Christmas tree and got creative with a cookie decorating station.  But, by far the most fun was the Santa limbo competition!  If you visit the Maywood office be sure to look up and admire the winter wonderland the youth created by making paper snow flake cut outs and pinning them to the ceiling. At the end of the night raffle tickets were pulled and clients went home with gifts such as movies, gift cards and small toys. Thanks to our board members Sylvia Talevera, Sandra Williams and Joyce Perry for attending the party and helping our prevention kids get into the holiday spirit.

On December 12th, Irving Park hard their holiday party for their counseling students.  They each created unique ornaments for the tree and decked the halls! Delicious holiday themed snacks were served while the youth listened to music, decorated and took part in other holiday themed activities. Thanks to Bob Kelly and Phyllis Kopriva for attending on behalf of our board.

Santa Limbo! Don't hit your belly on the bar.

A special thanks to our board members for attending the holiday parties!

The snowy ceiling at the Maywood office!

Ryan Kwaak recording radio advertisement

Mitch Apley and Geri Tauber from AblsonTaylor with Claire Barner from YOS

Youth Outreach Services (YOS) has started a special holiday foster parent recruitment campaign on the radio and with banner advertisements.  Listeners are asked to help a Chicago teen find a home for the holidays by making a contribution or becoming a foster parent.  Demonstrating their ongoing commitment to YOS, AbelsonTaylor recruited volunteer Ryan Kwaak in to record the radio advertisement and ARU Chicago to provide probono sound mixing.  Kelly Scott Madison secured probono advertising space on the radio and on digital billboard throughout Chicago.

LISTEN: Home for the Holidays Radio Ad

YOS has set a goal of raising $20,000 this holiday season for the work we do to support Chicago families. Visit our website to find out more or make a donation.

This year YOS staff, family and friends participated in No Shave November to benefit our counseling programs! Participants went the entire month of November with out shaving and collected money from sponsors on a weekly basis. Overall, we raised $6,472!  A big thank you to ReMarked Salon in downtown Chicago who invited the YOS No Shave November participants to their salon for complimentary shaves and trims. During this reception light refreshments were served and a lot of hair was removed.  We must highlight our staff member Austin Altman who raised $1,520!

Take a look at some of the before and after pictures of our hairy friends, family and staff:

On October 30, Micheal Winerip of the New York Times posted an article speaking on how foster care children are effected long term with goals of going to and graduating college. In the article he quotes a study done by University of Chicago that revealed the foster children in Illinois are more likely to complete a two-year degree when they are allowed to stay with their foster families up until the age of 21.

The article states, “Most of the research is bleak — but not all. It appears that extra support can make a difference. The Chicago study tracked the lives of about 700 foster children in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Those in Illinois who were still getting foster care services at age 19 were less likely to have been arrested (22 percent versus 34 percent) than those in the other two states who were on their own. The same was true for education. The foster children from Illinois, which has long allowed young people to remain in care until their 21st birthday, were more likely to have completed at least one year of college than their counterparts from Iowa or Wisconsin, where the age of emancipation at the time was 18.”

To read the full article please visit:

Noemi posing with Wonder Works exhibit

Wonder Works is a children’s museum in Oak Park that annually greets more than 50,000 visitors. It’s designed as a hand-on learning environment for young children. However, this summer, two teenagers learned the lessons of a lifetime working at the museum as part of Youth Outreach Services (YOS) Summer Youth Employment Program.

One of the teens is Noemi, a 17-year-old senior at Lane Tech and a resident of the Avondale community. Her goal is to become a pediatrician, and working at Wonder Works gave Noemi her first taste of working with children.

“I learned to be a whole lot more responsible this summer by working at Wonder Works,” said Noemi. “I can definitely say my social skills have improved and I can really see myself as a future pediatrician caring for young people.

Day-to-day responsibilities included the sanitization of the museum, monitoring young patrons and guarding the exhibits.

“I wanted youth to take away responsibility and work ethic,” says Jessica Taylor, volunteer coordinator at Wonder Works. Taylor has been a part of the Wonder Works team for more than five years and found the first-time partnership with YOS very refreshing.

With five permanent exhibits and several unique classes and programs, Wonder Works is a safe haven providing children with a range of play experiences and learning experiences. The museum is designed for young people from birth to eight-years-old. So who could have imagined a 17-year-old’s mind receiving an equal amount of stimulation?

“I had no idea how much fun I would have as a teenager in a kids’ museum,” admitted Noemi. “Everyday was a good time and I think I learned and had as much fun as the little people I kept watch over.”

Noemi also learned how to be more responsible with her own money and fund her activities.

“I felt responsible not having to ask my parents to do so much for me this summer,” she says. “I learned the real value of things. This summer work experience was a great entrance into adulthood.”

Noemi says after her senior year, she plans to seek internships and other jobs working with children. Due to her summer job at Wonder Works, she can add this experience to her resume and her memory bank.

By Veronica Adkins

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