Literacy Volunteers of Illinois

Supporting Volunteer Literacy In Illinois Since 1979


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 (IDJJ).  It is a joint venture between Literacy Volunteers of Illinois and School District #428 of the 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 the process of the youth. As a result, the tutors assist in strengthening the educational and counseling ervices provided by the Youth Center



Jump Start’s first volunteers were retired teachers, and while the focus of the program remains on retirees, we welcome individuals of all ages and backgrounds. However, most IYC locations do require that volunteers be 21 or older, so be sure to check with your location if you have questions about or want to double check your eligibility.


Our current tutors include homemakers, clergy, college students, business people, educators, social workers, and retirees. A background in education is not required, as training will be provided. The most important attribiutes to have are to be flexible, non-judgemental and committed to the student and the concept that positive change is a reachable goal. By giving one and a 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.


Volunteers discuss tutoring at the Illinois Youth Centers


IYC Locations


IYC - Chicago

136 N Western Ave

Chicago, IL 60612


IYC -  Harrisburg

1201 W Poplar St.

Harrisburg, IL 62946


IYC -  St. Charles
Program Director: Melissa Auer

3825 Campton Hills Rd,

St. Charles, IL 60175


IYC - Warrenville 

30 W 200 Ferry Rd

Warrenville, IL 60555


If you are interested in becoming a volunteer tutor, please contact either the LVI office or the Coordinator of the IYC at which you would like to volunteer.


Because all volunteers must undergo a background check, you will be asked to complete a detailed application and undergo an observed drug test, have a TB test and be fingerprinted.


If you have the heart, we have a place for you!


Volunteer Testimonials


"When I first considered being a tutor at IYC, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little nervous about being in a juvenile corrections facility. It became clear very quickly that tutoring at IYC is incredibly rewarding. It is amazing to witness the moment when a concept clicks in a student’s mind."


  - Michelle


"The person in charge of coordinating tutors is a fantastic human being. He is a great mentor for both volunteers and the students we are serving. There is enough direction to feel supported and it is laid-back enough to allow fun to happen and allow relationships to flourish. It is my favorite part of every week! I strongly recommend it!"




"Working with the youth at IYC is extremely rewarding.  It is fun getting to know the students as individuals and helping them to see the importance of education and what their own strengths and talents are. They are invariably polite and grateful and I often feel that I get as much out of tutoring as the students do. "


  - Sara


"I consider tutoring to be more than just a way to help the students with schoolwork - it's a way to also demonstrate what a normal, healthy human interaction looks like - no intimidation, no name calling, and lots of encouragement."




The Jump Start program is funded by School District #428 of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, the Literacy Office of the

Illinois State Library in the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, and donations from individual contributors and area businesses.



LVI began by working with just four LVA programs, and today provides an array of resources and services to staff, tutors, and students in some 100 adult literacy programs statewide.


Literacy Volunteers of Illinois
100 S. State  St., Suite 437
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312-857-1582

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