Three new federal grants with possibly a fourth one on the way will provide additional resources needed for a nonprofit to continue helping West Side and west suburban youth with their educational goals.
Introspect Youth Services Inc., 430 N. Cicero Ave., has been providing post-secondary educational assistance to youth since its 1977 inception, contends Bernard Clay, executive director.
"And now with these new federal grants we will be able to continue helping students with their education beyond high school whether it's college, vocational or trade schools," said Clay.
He added that the three, five-year grants from the U.S. Department of Education total $4.3 million and will be used largely to maintain staff with the organization's Talent Search and Upward Bound programs. Clay said he expects to find out in the next 30 days if Introspect would also receive a $1.6 million federal grant for its Upward Bound Math and Science program.
Services Introspect provides youth include help them fill out admission applications and financial aid forms, preparing them for admission tests, conducting career seminars and workshops, and providing campus visits to colleges. Clay said most of the students in the programs are black and between 11 and 27-years-old.
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th), whose district includes the West Side, was instrumental in helping the organization secure the grants, said Clay.
"Danny Davis has been influential in helping us receive funding," added Clay. "He is a big supporter of what we do."
But Davis said the organization does more than help youth get into college and enroll in job training programs. He said Introspect has been a very effective but fairly quiet organization that does not get the recognition it deserves.
"This is organization provides counseling to youth who would not otherwise receive it," said Davis, a former counselor at Farragut High School. "We need more organizations like Introspect if we want 'our' children in college."
Clay echoed Davis' sentiments adding that there are a number of barriers poor students encounter when pursuing higher education.
"Besides college we help students get into certification and other programs that lead to licensure," explained Clay. "And we provide factual information about schools to students so that they don't end up going to propriety schools that have a bad record of graduating low-income students."
Currently the organization does not offer scholarships to students, but Clay said his goal is to do so moving forward.
"One goal I have is to provide scholarships to students because financial assistance is a big barrier for most kids on the West Side," he said. "I'd like to also see us do more field trips for youth. Believe or not, there are a lot of kids that have never been to the Museum Campus (Downtown)."
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