Our Past: 

Recognizing the need for a youth summer employment program, Champaign Unit 4 Schools and the City of Champaign worked in partnership to design a program to be implemented June 2011 utilizing one-time funding from the Urban Renewal Fund. Champaign Unit 4 Schools designed a job placement program which connected 161 students with 69 employers the first year. Of that number, 146 completed the entire program.​

The team assessed program results at the close of that summer and returned with a new proposal for the next year. Their commitment to transparency and detailed reporting won them a renewed investment from both the city and the school district. In their second year, they connected with fewer students but had a higher completion rate. The program continued to grow and improve each summer. In 2015, they served 179 students and had 100% of them complete the program. 

As the number of students and employers increased, it became clear that the program needed a full-time supervisor to oversee the operations. In 2015, the team won approval to create this position in time for 2016's program. 

Our Present:

In January 2017, we launched Youth Employment Services. We now work with students throughout the entire year, helping them build bridges to meaningful employment and bright futures . 

YES students each complete a short and long-term goals worksheet, and program staff conduct regular check-ins to help them track their progress throughout their high school years. 

They also receive one-on-one coaching on building resumes and cover letters, and training on interviewing and networking strategies. Workshops are offered on general soft skills such as communication, time-management, teamwork, and problem solving/critical thinking. View our Program Components page for more information on our services. 

Our Future:

Youth Employment Services is always looking toward the future and seeking out new ways to say "yes" to the youth of our community. We hope to be able to increase the number of students accepted each year, eventually reaching a point where any student who wants to participate is able to benefit from our services. 

Our History

A Bird's-eye View of Our History

  • Summer 2011

    Pilot Season of Champaign's SYEP

    Champaign Unit 4 Schools wins a one-time Urban Renewal grant to create a program that will place high school students from low-income households and/or at-risk environments with summer jobs for six weeks. The team has one week between winning the award and beginning the program to firm up design plans, begin application/selection process, hire staff, and recruit employers. 

  • Fall 2011

    Program Wins New Support

    The City of Champaign and Champaign Unit 4 School District decide to form a financial partnership and commit to contribute matching funds to continue the program the following summer.  

  • Summer 2015

    Program Achieves 100% Completion Rate 

    This is the first summer that every student who starts a job placement completes the six-week program. That means 179 students are successfully working across the community with 70+ employers. Additionally, 30% of those students keep their jobs beyond the program dates. 

  • Fall 2015

    Program Approved for Full-Time Supervisor

    Because of the rapid growth occurring since the beginning of the program, the team makes a case for creating a full-time supervisor position. This proposal is approved by both the City and Unit 4, and interviews begin in Fall/Winter 2015. 

  • January 2016

    New Supervisor Hired

    In January 2016, Mindy Smith is hired and the program officially becomes a year-long effort for the first time.

  • Fall 2016

    First-Time Fall Initiatives Begin

    The program rolls out a new monthly newsletter beginning in September 2016. Work starts on a new website. And program supervisor meets one-on-one with the past summer's students to check on their work status and fall semester grades and attendance.

  • January 2017

    SYEP Changes Name to YES

    The program changes its name to reflect its new identity as a year-round experience. Youth Engagement Services incorporates new program components for training, recruitment, marketing, and staffing.

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