District Youth Grants Give Students New Voice 

CPS students create their own fun before and after school

April 18, 2013

From soccer to mentoring, and from broadcast journalism to aquaponics, students at more than 20 CPS schools are taking charge of how they spend their time outside the classroom.


This is the result of the Out of School Time (OST) Youth Grants Program - a chance for students in 5th-12th grades to apply for funds to create and implement an original extracurricular program at their schools. New this year, the initiative encourages students to develop a program idea and design a comprehensive project plan, schedule and budget.

“It’s an excellent platform for leadership,” said Allie Miller of the Office of Pathways to College and Career, which oversees all OST programs. “Students become strategic planners, grant writers, and project managers, all while enjoying the programs that interest and excite them.”


The first OST Youth Grant was awarded to 7th and 8th graders from the Lane Tech Academic Center for their creation of an Aquaponics Club. Through their biweekly meetings, they are now learning to care for the fish and grow and nurture plant life within the Lane Tech High School Aquaponics Lab.


“The lab is only open to Lane Tech High School students during school hours,” said Miller. “So by creating this club, the LTAC students obtained access to an already existing resource within their school that would otherwise have gone unused during out of school time hours.”


More than 20 additional youth grants have been awarded this spring to fund programs in science, mentoring, service learning, gardening, and in the case of Ames Middle School, broadcast journalism.


“The goal is to teach students to combine the finesse of a professional videographer with the news judgment of a journalist,” said faculty sponsor Stacie Gorfinkel of the newly-created Ames Press Club. “It’s a part of our broader plan to offer students the best high-tech and multimedia opportunities possible.”


One of the most unique student organizations to come out of the OST Youth Grants is the United UnAfraid Club – a program designed to create a support system for undocumented students at Curie High School.


“Many of our undocumented students are very unclear on the facts,” said Curie counselor Sofia Villafuerte. “They have it in their heads that college is not an option. The goal of this organization is to provide these students with resources and help them understand their legal rights.”


Like all student organizations created by an OST Youth Grant, the United UnAfraid Club will have a culminating event this May to display a finished product and discuss what they’ve learned. Their plan is to award two scholarships to undocumented students.


In addition to the youth grants, OST operates many programs focused on academic enrichment, health and wellness, athletics and the arts, including the After-School Allstars Program, which is active in over 150 CPS schools.


For more information on the OST Youth Grants, visit http://tinyurl.com/YouthGrantInfoOpens in a new window icon.