After School Matters Annual Gala Raises More than $2.5 Million for Chicago’s Teens
October 7, 2022
For image downloads, click here.
CHICAGO – Nearly 400 civic, corporate and community leaders attended the After School Matters Annual Gala on Thursday, September 29 at Offshore on Navy Pier to celebrate an impactful last two years of providing after-school and summer programs for Chicago teenagers during the ongoing pandemic.
Themed “Bridging Communities, Building Equity,” this is the first in-person Gala after two years of virtual celebrations, and raised more than $2.5 million for the city’s largest and a leading national provider of out-of-school time programs which serves thousands of Chicago teens each year from all corners of the city.
“Tonight’s gala theme, ‘Bridging Communities, Building Equity,’ resonates deeply with me, as equity is a guiding force of my administration,” said Chicago Mayor E. Lightfoot. “Creativity exists within every zip code of our city, and we must tap into this resource by bridging the opportunity gap for our young people. This gala provides us with an important opportunity to renew our commitment to uplifting Chicago’s youth, who need to have a supportive ecosystem around them and be reminded that they matter.”
The funds raised tonight will specifically support the financial stipends teens participating in After School Matters programs receive each program session. After School Matters programs are free to participate in, and the stipend lowers participation barriers and provides important funds directly to teens, their families, and communities.
“The greatest investment we can make is in Chicago’s young people, and providing stipends to our teens empowers them and reinforces the value of their time and efforts in our programs. After the last couple of years, we also know our teens and their families rely on stipends more than ever,” said After School Matters CEO Mary Ellen Caron.
In a recently published report, Adjusting to a New Normal: Lessons Learned from After School Matters Summer 2021 Programs, After School Matters and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found Chicago teens in its program (nearly 9 in 10 of whom are Black or Latinx) continue to face significant, adult-like challenges and responsibilities from the pandemic, including stress, food insecurity, economic concerns and more.
Select findings include:
- Nearly 1 in 3 teens are experiencing food insecurity and 31% say they or someone in their family lost a job or had hours cut due to the pandemic
- Despite facing ongoing pandemic challenges, 78% of teens feel more hopeful about their future after participating in an After School Matters program.
- Teens also developed strong connections with their instructors and peers, and 84% of teens report their program helps them reduce or manage stress.
- Finally, teens reported significant gains in their skills, including stronger content skills (e.g., coding, dance) and 21st century skills (e.g., communication, problem-solving) after participating.
When the pandemic began in 2020, After School Matters adapted its program structure to provide teens with safe, remote opportunities for summer engagement. In Summer 2021, After School Matters re-envisioned its model again to provide remote and in-person programs to more than 10,000 teens across Chicago. The organization’s pandemic response has also included mental and emotional supports for teens through a new partnership with Adler Community Health Services, and more than 200,000 meals to support teens and families facing food insecurity.
“After School Matters creates programs for young people to discover a bigger world, and we do that because our young people deserve and desire it,” Dr. Caron continued. “I visited many programs across the city this summer and seeing how happy teens were to be back in person and part of their program motivated me every day. I met with teens who painted large-scale murals together, tended to gardens right here in the city, built robots from scratch, and so much more. What stood out the most was the sense of community – seeing Chicago’s young people lean into each other over the past two difficult years has been a constant reminder of why our organization exists.”
This year, After School Matters reached thousands of Chicago teenagers who participated in the organization’s programs, which encourage youth to explore and develop their talents while gaining critical skills for work, college and beyond. More than 1,600 programs were offered over the last year in all 77 Chicago neighborhoods.
The Gala is presented by the Board of Directors with GCM Grosvenor and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation as the Visionary Sponsors. In honor of the Gala, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois headquarters skyscraper on Randolph Street was lit up to display “AFTER SCHOOL MATTERS” during the event in a show of support for the organization and its mission.
The evening’s entertainment included dance performances by Forward Momentum Chicago and musical performances by the Business of Music. Teen emcees Elijah Cooper (junior at Urban Prep Academy) and Sareli Garcia (senior at Senn High School) lead a speaking program with remarks from long-time Board Members Nora Daley and Elzie Higginbottom as well as CEO Mary Ellen Caron. Interactive “Teens in Action” displays around the venue allowed teens to show off their work in programs such as Astronomy, Advanced Video Production, Urban Gardening.
The After School Matters gift shop also had a pop-up shop, where guests purchased teen-created artwork, jewelry and furniture. Additional teen works are available for purchase at the After School Matters Gift Shop, located online and at 66 E. Randolph. All proceeds support After School Matters programming.
Individuals, corporations and foundations interested in learning more about After School Matters and the opportunities for support or volunteering can visit afterschoolmatters.org. Applications for After School Matters fall program session are now open. Teens can visit the website to apply.
~ ~ ~
ABOUT AFTER SCHOOL MATTERS:
After School Matters is a nonprofit organization that provides world class, after-school, and summer opportunities to Chicago public high school teens to explore their passions and develop their talents, while gaining critical skills for work, college, and beyond. After School Matters programs are project-based, led by industry experts, and provide a pathway to progress in skills development and independence. Teens earn a stipend while participating in programs in the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Over the span of three decades, After School Matters has engaged more than 350,000 teens throughout the city of Chicago. www.afterschoolmatters.org.
# # #
Back to Pressroom