CARE4U helps students from several schools in Champaign County develop relationship and job skills, with the help of Illinois State faculty and students.
The program teaches relationship education, job readiness and financial literacy. Students attend weekly sessions in the summer. In the fall, CARE4U teaches a relationship education curriculum and in the spring, they teach a job readiness and financial literacy curriculum.
CARE4U was created by ISU Associate Provost Ani Yazedjian. The grant funded program started with a pilot session in the spring of 2016. In fall 2016, implementation of the program for the full year began. Now, CARE4U is in their third full year of helping students.
“A lot of school personnel recognize the need for programming to meet the socioemotional needs for today’s youth,” CARE4U Project Director Yazedjian said. “But there isn’t enough time in the school day to incorporate classes or programming that focuses on healthy relationships, emotional regulation [and more]. That’s where CARE4U comes in and fills a gap.”
At schools where CARE4U is offered, Yazedijian states that most students come to the program during lunch hour. At CARE4U they are fed lunch and get to learn at the same time, for most of the academic year. However, at some sites the program meets during a class.
If a student has completed all of the CARE4U lessons, they are eligible to participate in the program’s summer youth employment or tuition reimbursement programs.
This year, CARE4U received additional funding to allow students to work up to 200 hours and take two classes for free at Parkland. In previous years, without additional funding they have worked 90 hours or taken a class for free.
“Beyond the information that students learn, we also provide a trusted adult-our facilitators-who are there every week to listen to what our youth have to say,” Yazedjian said. “They follow up with them when they miss a group, take an interest in what’s going on in their lives [and more].”
CARE4U uses interactive strategies to teach their curriculum. They show students how they can apply what they learn in the program to multiple relationships in their lives. Yazedjian adds that while the program is focused on romantic relationships, it also addresses how youth can approach other relationships, such as those with family, friends and employers.
The program also focuses on identifying and developing healthy relationships expectations. They help the youth in the program learn strategies on how to resolve conflict and improve communication.
“CARE4U is an important program to have because we teach [students] the tools and strategies that they may otherwise not have been exposed to,” Project Facilitator and ISU Alum Sarah Mimnaugh said. “I was excited [when I started working at CARE4U] for the opportunity to work with students again in a different capacity than as a teacher and explore my interest in relationships and marriage.”