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Four aldermen back ‘Cradle to Career’

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Without much addressing issues of cost or staffing, four aldermen on the Human Services Committee voted Monday to approve plans for a proposed "Cradle to Career" initiative to better prepare Evanston's young people for adult responsibilities.

The aldermen endorsed a set of guidelines for city participation in the project developed over the past two weeks by Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. Those call for:

  • Naming an alderman to the current planning committee for the organization.
  • Naming an alderman to the group's formal steering committee, once it's established.
  • Including at least one member of the program's target population on the steering committee.
  • Having Northwestern University serve as the collector of data for the initiative.
  • Giving city input on the data to be collected.
  • Making all data collected public.

While the non-profit groups that developed the Cradle to Career proposal called for hiring an executive director an a data analyst with the program's proposed $250,000 first year funding, it was not clear from the mayor's guidelines or discussion by the aldermen whether they believe NU's participation in collecting the data could substitute for some of that expense.

The group is asking that the city contribute $50,000 this year toward the project. The city's two school boards have already approve spending $50,000 each on the project.

The only reference to cost Mnday night came from Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who said the program was "one of the single best programs I've seen since I've been on the council. It's sorely needed and at very reasonable cost."

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he liked the idea of the university taking an important role in the project.

"An entity apart from a lot of the community organizations can provide a different opinion and viewpoint," Tendam said, and the university "certainly has the brainpower to do that."

Aldermen Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, also voted in favor of the proposal.

None of the aldermen who criticized the "Cradle to Career" proposal at a City Council meeting last month were present for Monday's committee session.

Evanston School District 65 spends $90 million a year and District 202 spends another $59 million to prepare young people for productive careers, while the city spends millions more on youth-oriented library, recreation and mental health programs.

Groups leading the push for the new program include the Evanston Community Foundation, the McGaw YMCA and Youth Organization Umbrella.

While the groups claim the ultimate goal of having every Evanston youth transition to a successful career, they say they currently lack sufficient data to be able to set any short or medium term benchmarks to measure the program's progress.

The proposal now goes back to the nine-member City Council for further discussion later this month.

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