Youth Connection: Wilmette Kids Get a Room of Their Own

Wilmette kids have a room of their own, thanks to Youth Connection.

At Highcrest Middle School, the program is called RAD, and at Wilmette Junior High, it’s called the DEN. Both provide a space for kids to hang out after school, where they are chaperoned and safe. Got homework?

Youth Connection runs Homework Clubs after school in the Library Media Centers, paying a librarian to stay extra hours so the kids can get their
homework done and have more time in the computer labs.

What do these amazing programs cost parents? Nothing. The entire program is free. Youth Connection funds the whole thing—and they’ve done it for 22 years.

“Kids need a space – a space to be themselves, with some structure, but not too much,” says board member Bill Perkins.

“We catch the kids who might otherwise go home and sit in front of the TV,” says Amy Denes, executive director.

At RAD and the DEN, kids can hang out with friends, play foosball, Wii, chess, make jewelry—in short, they can be kids. But the fun doesn’t end with the after-school programs.

Youth Connection also funds plays with student casts and crews at both schools, directed by the schools’ drama teachers. And, they fund the WJHS Battle of the Bands, where 400 students entertain their peers and families—co-sponsored by KISS 103.5. Then there’s the WJHS Art Club, and the Monster Mash and TGIF parties, where kids can dance and socialize in a chaperoned environment.

WJHS  Principal Dave Palzet says, “The DEN offers a safe, supervised after-school environment for our kids and allows for  positive interaction between kids and adults.  It is another great way for our kids to connect to their school.  It’s definitely a valuable program that we are happy to host.”

Ryan T., who goes to the DEN, says, “I get to see all my 8th grade friends that I don’t get to see during the day in school.”

And Sarah P. says RAD gives her “… a quiet time to do my homework…and you never get bored here!”

But is it cool to hang out at RAD or The DEN? “Amy makes it cool,” says board member Bill Perkins. “It’s seen as an okay place to be.”