History

Founded in 1988, Youth Connection continues to serve Wilmette’s youth nearly a quarter-century later.

Youth Connection’s mission is to offer social, service, and learning opportunities to Wilmette’s 5th through 8th grade children during a critical period of growth in their lives.  We provide experiences that encourage children to participate, to grow, and to have fun in a safe and inclusive environment.

Youth Connection was founded in 1988 in response to findings outlined in a report by the New Trier Committee on Youth.  Fifth through eighth grade is a critical time in the lives of our pre-teens and teens, especially during the transition period between school and home. Research indicates that one of the highest crime periods for juveniles is this “high-risk” time of 3:00 to 6:00pm.  Youth Connection makes sure that children who are not signed up for structured activities have a safe, secure, positive place to go. This is why the majority of our programs run between 3:00 to 6:00pm.

Throughout its history, Youth Connection has maintained a positive and strong working relationship with the District 39 superintendent and the principals at Highcrest Middle School (HMS) and at Wilmette Junior High School (WJHS).  This has given us the unique advantage to use space at the school to provide our programming. Children taking part in the after-school homework clubs, art clubs, plays, or drop-in centers do not need to leave the school building. This access to school buildings also results in Youth Connection having minimal capital expense to run its programming.  While the majority of Youth Connection’s programs take place at HMS and WJHS, our services are available to all Wilmette-area 5th through 8th graders including those who attend the Avoca school or private schools in Wilmette.

Youth Connection remains committed to making its after-school programs available to any family, regardless of their ability to pay a participation fee or make a financial contribution. RAD, the DEN and both homework clubs continue to be drop-in programs provided free of charge to all students. This commitment to providing no-cost drop-in programs remains strong even in the face of a continued slow economy and the corresponding decrease in contributions.

The Wilmette Youth Commission Report demonstrates that youth in Wilmette face the same challenges as youth nationwide, including bullying, substance abuse, early sexual activity, and depression. The report underscores the need for organizations like Youth Connection to provide opportunities for social, emotional and intellectual growth in a safe and healthy environment.  We believe that our informal as well as structured activities provide the kinds of experiences that youth in Wilmette need at this critical time in their lives.