Several aldermen were openly skeptical Monday of a plan from local non-profits to create a new group to coordinate programs aimed at assuring Evanston kids become successful adults.

Organizers of the “Cradle to Career” initiative, including Marybeth Schroeder of the Evanston Community Foundation, asked the city to put up a first-year contribution of $50,000 toward a $250,000 budget that would pay for an executive director and a data analyst to launch the program.

While the group claims a lofty ultimate goal, it offered no specifics about any intermediate signs of progress it would commit to achieve and claimed it needed the start-up staff to be able to collect data to begin the process of developing more specific goals.

Seth Green of YOU.

Seth Green of Youth Organizations Umbrella said the group needs to build the infrastructure and hire the staff and “do benchmarking so we have a clear baseline as to where we are now.”

“Then we can set a vision for four to five years down the road,” Green said, “but we can’t set that vision until we have the baseline data.”

But Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said, “We already have robust data sets,” and voiced doubt about the need for so much initial spending to collect data.

Alderman Burrus.

And Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward said, “I don’t get it. I don’t see the need.”

Rainey suggested that the existing non-profit groups already have sufficient budgets to handle the task.

Burrus said the city already spends well over $1 million a year on social service programs — and suggested the desired coordination ought to be one of the results of the existing spending.

Some aldermen were more supportive of the concept. Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said it that while the city gives out a tremendous amount of money, the new group would create opportunities for collaboration and could greatly improve accountability.

But Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said that while the group’s long-term vision is very important — it needed to identify short-range goals as well.

Mayor Tisdahl.

And Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said that the group should focus not just on taking a new group of youngsters from cradle to career, but also attend to the problems of present-day young adults who have fallen off the track.

She said city staffers are now working with young people who have graduated from high school or have a GED certificate but can’t pass tests to get into career training programs.

“Those kids are stuck,” Tisdahl said.

Rainey said taxpayers already provide over $10,000 per student to District 65 and around $16,000 per student to District 202.

“What responsibility do they take for turning out students who can’t fill out forms and can’t pass tests to get into remedial classes at Oakton Community College?” she asked.

Mark Dennis.

Each of the school districts has already committed to provide $50,000 in funds for the “Cradle to Career” initiative, and organizer Mark Dennis, the new CEO of the McGaw YMCA, said several other organizations have pledged a total of $38,000 so far.

The aldermen voted to refer the proposal to the Human Services Committee for further discussion.

Related story

‘Cradle to Career’ advocates seek city funding

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Cradle to Career
    Thank you alderpersons for putting a hold on this. First of all, nobody can assure anyone of success. This is a pie-in-the-sky program. Evanston is loaded with plenty of social service programs, and in-school programs and training aimed at our youth. Who is going to be around years later, to see if each child in this program turns out successful? This is an unattainable, unrealistic goal. Success comes from within: a strong determination to make your way when there doesn’t seem to be a way, and seeking out help from the plethora of programs that are already in existence.

  2. Cradle to parenting?
    There is an old saying that is so worthy of this topic: “If you should find yourself in a hole, it’s best to stop digging”. The target audience that these non profits want to study (which are the children) is the wrong target. There is ad nauseum information on them. What the non profits realy need to focus on is where the parent(s) are failing at being parent(s). Study and solve that problem, and the other one will evaporate

    1. Tomorrow’s parents
      Today’s children are tomorrow’s parents. Change takes time.

  3. Always more studies and programs ?

    As with most government bodies the answer seems to always be "we need more studies", "we need more consultants", "we need more committes."

    Evanston has had many years to "study" and has developed many "programs."

    Have they not worked ? Apparently those who propose this new program don't think so.  Thus are they saying THOSE programs should be canceled; you cannot or should not continue programs that don't work just because they already exist and its—political—sponsors will have their feelings hurt ?

    Where is the evaluation of [they say] prior programs have not worked ?  If this has been known before why have failing programs not been cancelled long ago ?  Have the people behind failed programs been held accountable [fired]?

    Politicians and unfortantually some/many in the community always think we need "just one more program", "just one more study" and everything will be solved—it just does not work that way.  All that happens is a few people [consultants and managers] get jobs and taxpayer dollars are spent on ventures that are sure to fail because they "Fire and then [if every] aim—i.e. really define the problem and what it will take to solve it.  I suspect a selection of parents and people from Kellogg and NU could give better answers and programs that what we have been getting.

  4. Against funding for Cradle to Career initiative

    As a resident of Evanston for almost 35 years who raised children here, I am concerned that the Cradle to Career initiative makes the assumption that most children who graduate from Evanston High School lived here all their lives.

    As a parent of children attending District 65 and 202, I was impressed by the mobility of the student population, new kids arriving every year, others moving away. To me, it appeared that there was greater mobility among the more economically disadvantaged students than the population as a whole, but that was just my impression.

    We as a community can provide all types of programs for children, but there always will be some teens here who did not get the benefit of the many prevention, enrichment and family support services available here because they lived elsewhere before entering ETHS.

    This Cradle to Career initiative is a bad use of public funds.

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