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Rally for Youth Communication Chicago

Student writers and supporters of Youth Communication Chicago will rally at noon on Saturday, November 15, at YCC’s Columbia College office, 619 S. Wabash, to call attention to the organization’s financial crisis.

After 32 years of publishing New Expressions as a vehicle for Chicago youth voices, YCC suspended operations early this month, said executive director Phil Costello.

“It’s the economy, and the squeeze on nonprofits, and the crisis in the newspaper industry — it’s a perfect storm,” Costello said.

Board member Johnathon Briggs said YCC has been “living hand-to-mouth for years,” with Costello sometimes forgoing his salary, and loss of a major funding source precipitated the crisis. The group faces a $160,000 budget shortfall, he said. The board is exploring options for the future, which could include merging with a similar organization or closing its doors.

Over the years YCC has provided nearly 4,000 Chicago teens with mass media vehicles — as well as journalism training and mentoring by industry professionals — principally through the bimonthly New Expressions but also with a weekly call-in show on CAN-TV produced by teens, as well as Teens Mean Business, a teen business publication that promotes financial literacy. A new Journalism in the Community program sponsors newsletters produced at 32 schools and youth centers around the city, many in communities where young people lack opportunities.

“I don’t care what they write about, whether it’s what jeans are in style or social justice issues, as long as they use journalism principles,” Costello said.

He estimates that only a third of Chicago high schools have school newspapers. New Expression is distributed in nearly 300 schools and youth centers.

YCC also helps students obtain scholarships and internships.

The organization started similar groups in New York City in 1976 and in Los Angeles in 1984. Board member Briggs, a former Chicago Tribune education reporter, credits LA Youth with inspiring him to become a journalist. “I’d never met a professional journalist, I’d never met anyone who made a living writing,” he said “A whole world opened up for me.”

“I don’t know what there is like New Expression in Chicago, a vehicle for young people’s voices and a place where they can learn journalism,” Briggs said.

The Saturday rally is being held at the initiative of teens involved in YCC. “If they want to speak, I want to listen,” Costello said. Along with Costello, New Expressions editor-in-chief Elizabeth Lopez, a junior at Walter Payton College Prep, will discuss the situation and give a tour of the offices.

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Category: journalism, media, nonprofits, youth

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