Jump Start at the Illinois Youth Centers
"Changing One Life At A Time"
Jump Start is a one-to-one tutoring and mentoring program operating in the Illinois Youth Centers (IYC) in the new Department of Juvenile Justice. It is a joint venture between Literacy Volunteers of Illinois and School District #428 of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ). The program has also received support from the Illinois Retired Teachers Association (IRTA), and was originally funded by a three year grant from the Retirement Research Foundation.
At its inception, the purpose of Jump Start was to help raise the literacy levels of incarcerated youth. It became obvious quite early that tutoring in reading and writing was only part of what was actually happening. That is, while the tutoring was helping youth improve their literacy skills, the tutors also began serving as mentors, bringing life experience, caring guidance and dependability to the young people with whom they were working.
An important additional aspect of the program is the emphasis on improving the life skills and the decision making process of the youth. As a result, the tutors assist in strengthening the educational and counseling services provided by the Youth Centers.
Youth participating in Jump Start are referred by their teachers and/or counselors, but are allowed to choose if they will participate in the program. A current student at IYC-St. Charles says, "I have a special tutor. She’s sweet, bright and intelligent. Also what I like about her – she puts in an effort to help me reach my goals." The gains from the tutoring/mentoring experience are immeasurable for both tutors and students.
Jump Start’s first volunteers were retired teachers, and while the focus of the program remains on retirees, we welcome individuals of all ages (most Centers require 21+) and backgrounds. Our current tutors include homemakers, clergy, college students, business people, educators, social workers and retirees. The only requirements are that you be caring, willing and committed to the student and the concept that positive change is a reachable goal. By giving one and one-half hours per week of your time, you can help prepare youth for their eventual return to society.
Can It Make A Difference?
A study done by the National Center for State Courts and the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities shows the positive impact that tutoring can have. In the study, 970 juvenile offenders were randomly assigned to two equal size groups: a study group whose members received tutoring services and a controlled group whose members did not. Researchers found that with 55-60 hours of tutoring the incidence for delinquent acts was significantly reduced. When tutoring increased to 100 hours, delinquency reduced to zero.
The Jump Start program cannot solve the myriad problems faced by at-risk youth. What you as a volunteer can do is help to lower the rate of recidivism among incarcerated youth through tutoring in literacy and life skills, and bringing both help and hope to them through mentoring.
Financial support for the Jump Start program comes from School District #428 of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Chicago Tribune Charities, a division of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, and donations from individual contributors and area businesses.