New after-school mentoring program launched in Austin

YourPassion1st, an Oak Park-based non-profit youth mentoring organization, is launching a new after-school mentoring program that will provide mental health support while teaching students the skills they would need to achieve their goals in life. career.

The program is an extension of the nonprofit organization’s existing mental health mentorship programs and workshops. The program is starting at the Youth Connection Charter School’s Austin campus at 4909 W. Division St., but organizers hope to expand it to other public and charter schools on the West Side. YourPassion1st founder Chris Thomas said dealing with adolescent mental health is important to them.

YourPassion1st hosts workshops and events designed to help young people succeed in the arts, music, sports and cooking. Thomas said the after-school mentoring program builds on their Youth Ambassador program, which gives young people the opportunity to develop and present projects. In addition to mentoring and career counseling, young people benefit from the help and support of therapists.

“We all go through mental health issues, so our program has the basic mental health framework,” Thomas said.

He added that young people have been stressed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when restrictions were tighter and students were socially isolated and could not meet their mentors.

“It’s an after-school program, to really mentor these young adults, to give them a safe space, for them to turn something they love into a paycheck,” Thomas said. “Many young adults, especially in high school, are faced with [turning] doing what they love, what excites them, in a career. We help them turn these challenges and weaknesses into strengths.

The program will begin the third or fourth week of January, Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as select Saturdays, for 32 weeks.

YourPassion1st works with Light of Loving Kindness, a Chicago-area nonprofit that, according to its website, treats stress and trauma “through holistic, integrative solutions and full-hearted interventions. awareness ”, focusing specifically on low-income and underserved communities.

The program will pair two mental health and career coaches with 10 students. Thomas said that one of those coaches, Shanna Williams, is a therapist and musician who plays the role of Queen Prophecy. Williams serves on the advisory board of YourPassion1st.

The program is free for students, but it costs approximately $ 30,000 to operate. Thomas said funding came from several grants, including the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant.

For more information on YourPassion1st, visit

Comments are closed.