There’s plenty for Austin youth to do: Check out these activities

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Several community-based organizations joined the 15th Police District’s youth collaboration meeting to highlight programs available for Austin’s youth.

Officer William Martinez, who serves as the youth liaison for the 15th District CAPS office, said Austin’s youth “want their voices heard” and there are several programs that offer a “platform for the youth to do that.”

“We are just guiding them, so it’s not necessarily us. It’s all the youth and all the hard work that we do,” Martinez said at the Oct. 20 meeting.

Chris Thomas, founder of the youth mentoring nonprofit YourPassion1st, shared upcoming opportunities for West Side teenagers and young adults.

A program focused on art therapy and creative conversations will launch later this year. It will be similar to the murals created for several West Side block clubs earlier this year, he said. It is a recipient of the city’s Together We Heal Creative Place Program.

Local organizations Taproots Inc. and Antidote Inc., among others, will join in a 19-month project to explore opportunities for an open lot near to Central Avenue to become a place that “brings community together” through art healing.

Young adults are invited to participate in an initial conversation about the program on Nov. 12 at 11 a.m., tentatively planned to be held at Austin Town Hall. For more information, visit website.

Sarah’s Inn invites high school students to join their Youth Committee program. The high schoolers meet every other Thursday to participate in activities to end gender-based violence in their communities. Chidori Lively, prevention program supervisor, said the group talks about love, what love actually looks like, and the different intersections of love and violence. To sign up for the program, click here.

The 15th District CAPS office has two programs for youth. The Station Exploration program gives youth and community members an opportunity to tour the police station and learn what the police district does day to day.

“Their first time at the police station shouldn’t be where they’re being taken in for something … or a family member was taken into a police station where it’s a scary event,” Martinez said.

The police district also offers an educational program about law enforcement for youth-facing organizations. Officers visit schools or community organizations to educate and empower the youth, he said. The visits can range from an hour to a program lasting eight to 12 weeks. For more information, call the CAPS office at 312-743-1440.

Uniting Voices Chicago, formerly known as Chicago Children’s Choir, has a neighborhood choir group in Austin. The group meets at the Austin Public Library and is open to kids ages 8-18.

Project Exploration is a free after-school STEM program for K-8 students than runs Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. at Bethel New Life. Students get free snacks, homework tutoring and participate in programs that introduce them to STEM, such as creating video apps. To enroll in their fall programs, visit their website.

Other resources available for youth and their families include:

Hope Church’s Food Pantry, 5900 W. Iowa St.: Open every Friday from 12 to 2 p.m.

Free high-speed Internet: Chicago Public Schools students and their families may be eligible to get high-speed internet or a district-provided hotspot at no cost through the Chicago Connected program. To review their eligibility, students can go to

Job opportunities with the Chicago Park District: Youth and adults can apply for jobs with the Chicago Park District. To find jobs and complete an application, visit the job portal available at

Digital literacy workshops for adults and seniors: Project Exploration offers free workshops for adults to get started on using computers and learn digital tools like Google programs and Microsoft Office. Adults can also build a resume, use financial planning tools and learn to keep kids safe online. To receive more information, residents can sign up using this form.

Martinez reminded attendees of upcoming events where families can get resources for Thanksgiving, including the annual turkey giveaways by Black McDonald’s Operators Association and BUILD Chicago.

More details will be shared closer to the events, he said. “We want to make sure that the families have the opportunity to enjoy Thanksgiving as a family and not worry about costs.”

Attendees stressed the importance of working together to ensure youth and their families know about the opportunities available in their community.

Crystal Dyer, founder of the Chicago Austin Youth Travel Adventures, shared a website that continuously lists Austin community events. Community-based organizations can also submit events to be featured on the calendar for free. To find or list events, visit the Austin Residents Coalition website.

“We’re all kind of sometimes siloed versus really taking the time to create that plan at the beginning of the year, even before the year starts so that we can just better connect,” Chris Thomas, founder of YourPassion1st said.

“Austin has everything if you think about it. Anything that we need is in Austin, but we don’t know about or the knowledge isn’t shared,” Martinez added.

He said the 15th District’s youth committee’s goal is to partner up and build a coalition of organizations that consistently offers resources for Austin’s youth.

“Everyone is welcome, and everyone has the ability to partner.”

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