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Chase Empowerment Summer Jobs Program

ChaseThis summer, 60 of our youth participated in jobs through the Chase Empowerment program. They were assigned to 5 different sites around the city to work on projects relating to environmental sustainability.

The youth participants had great opportunities to tackle real-world issues and develop concrete job skills.  The program culminated in a business plan competition at Navy Pier, and one of Alternatives’ partners, Taj Development, organized the group that came in 2nd out of 25 competing teams!




Here is a brief summary of the projects for each of the 5 partner sites:

A Just Harvest

Mentor: Mr. John HoekwaterJustHarvest

Mr. Hoekwater is adapting the organization’s existing AGUA program. Youths will learn about aquaponics, a food production practice that combines traditional aquaculture with hydroponics.

Mr. Hoekwater will also include components of the organization’s Just BITES program, a business incubator centered on entrepreneurship and small business ownership.

Neighborhood: Rogers Park

Let’s Go ChicagoLetsGo

Mentor: Ms. Molly Costello

Ms. Costello is adapting the organization’s existing yard sharing network,
a series of partnerships between homeowners with underutilized land and growers looking for spaces to grow food. Youths will not only learn how to manage these spaces, but also take part in maintaining these relationships.

Neighborhood: Rogers Park

Loud Grade Produce SquadLoudGrade2

Mentor: Ms. Maya Odim

Ms. Odimis in charge of the organization’s soap program. Youths will learn how to manufacture, test, and package organic soaps. In understanding this process, they will learn about laboratory safety, biodiesel, titrations, and composting. Additionally, youths will develop skills in marketing and inventory assessment.

Neighborhood: Uptown

Taj DevelopmentTaj

Mentor: Ms. JoeAnn Mack & Roxanna Daniels

TAJ will  introduce the youth to the process of home weatherization and real world construction consulting. The curriculum, extracted from Chicago’s already successful Urban Weatherization Initiative (UWI), focuses on applicable industry skills such as professional safety,  project financing, and team organization.

Neighborhood: Englewood/Auburn-Gresham


Territory Urban Designterritory

Mentor: Ms. Helen Slade

Ms. Slade will introduce the youths to design-based thinking and creative problem solving. They will develop architectural and urban design skills, such as identifying urban social-spatial problems, conducting research, developing design solutions, and constructing prototypes. This project had its own meeting with Mayor Emanuel, click here to read more.

Neighborhood: Argyle/Uptown

Carmen Curet
About Carmen Curet

Carmen Curet directs programs and services within the Youth Development Department, including Youth Leadership and Career and Employment Services. At Alternatives, Carmen has previously been Associate Director and was for four years the Career and Employment Services Program Manager. For six years prior to joining Alternatives, Carmen was with Youth Service Project, first as Program Director and later as Interim Executive Director. She has 13 years of management and operations experience in the workforce development and human resources fields. Carmen has a BA in Nonprofit Management from North Park University, where she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in the same field. More Posts