For about 30 years, Links North Shore Youth Health Service has been educating young adults about sexual health and well being.
The Northfield-based nonprofit already serves hundreds of adolescents in about 70 communities, and plans to expand its outreach under the leadership of its new executive director Amy Skalinder.
“We can build on the good work that Links is already doing and expand our reach—by reaching into communities we don’t serve as much, or by offering a greater depth in programming for certain populations,” Skalinder says.
Northfield resident Kathy Fishman, co-president of Links’ board of directors, says Skalinder was chosen to head up the organization because of her extensive background working with local youth.
Skalinder, who lives in Skokie, earned a master’s degree in social work from Loyola University in Chicago and has spent more than a decade working with youth and in nonprofit management. She worked for 10 years at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston, most recently as the vice president of operations.
Links partners with schools and other local organizations to conduct workshops on sexual responsibility, birth control, healthy relationships, substance abuse, stress management and other topics that directly impact the lives of young adults. Last year, the organization reached about 18,000 North Shore young adults through its workshops.
Gerri Tyre is a health teacher at Glencoe Central School, where she has been working with Links for nearly 15 years. She says Links supplements her curriculum by conducting presentations on birth control and STD prevention.
“They bring in different types of birth control, and we talk about how serious a decision it is to become sexually active,” Tyre says. “[My students] have often said that they didn’t realize how many things there are to think about related to becoming sexually active.”
Links also provides services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. The organization’s staff includes a full-time director and many volunteers who run weekly support groups for young adults who identify as LGBT.
In addition to its educational programming, Links also operates a clinic that provides nonsurgical gynecological services, a male clinic, STD testing and counseling. The clinic is completely volunteer-run, with about 60 doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, midwives and other volunteers donating their time each year.
Board co-president Piper Rothschild of Wilmette says one of Links’ top goals under Skalinder’s leadership will be to increase awareness and availability of the organization’s health and medical services.
“There are people, churches and schools that need to be more aware of the work we are doing,” Rothschild says. “We have a huge team of volunteer doctors and nurses who provide services on the North Shore—and we want to be the go-to medical resource for adolescents.”