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Newsletter – October 2021

YC Counselors Respond to the New Normal

Clara was a healthy, vibrant, and academically accomplished 6th grader before the pandemic
began. She was fun and creative and had lots of friends. “Something suddenly changed in her
when the pandemic hit,” her mother said. “She went from being a happy little girl to being
really anxious and sad all the time. It got so bad she ended up in the hospital where she was
treated for depression.”

While Clara’s story may be an extreme example, most of the students that Youth Crossroads
counselors have been seeing at the beginning of the school year are experiencing extraordinary
levels of stress and anxiety in their lives because of the pandemic.

“A lot of the students I have met with seem to be struggling to establish their confidence,
adjusting to this new normal at school,” said Laura Marsicek, a YC counseling intern at Morton
West High School in Berwyn. “Students are finding it difficult to feel comfortable and secure
within themselves. Reaching out to new friends, teachers, and keeping up with homework is
overwhelming for a lot of these students,” Laura said. “Students are having a difficult time
expressing their difficulties with all the adjustments and changes. When students feel
overwhelmed, they don’t feel comfortable reaching out and talking about their emotions.”
“I have discovered how important it is to work with students to identify helpful coping skills
during this adjustment period. To make this adjustment easier, I speak to students about
finding ways to bring the comfort of home to the classroom. This can look like listening to
certain music or bringing a small stuffed animal in their backpack,” Laura said.

For Natalie Palm, a counselor at Morton Alternative High School in Cicero, students really seem
to be struggling with anxiety. “I am working with a 17-year-old male who is dealing with a lot of
stress which is making schoolwork difficult for him. We’ve spent a lot of time building
awareness of what his triggers are and trying out different coping skills to see which works best
for him,” Natalie said. “While the student still feels anxious from time to time, he seems better
able to mentally prepare for anxiety-inducing situations and use healthy coping skills such as
deep breathing and challenging unhelpful thoughts,” Natalie said.

To help Clara, YC’s Director of Counseling Services Michelle Desideri has focused on helping
Clara learn new ways to express and manage these sometimes-overwhelming feelings. “The
pandemic has really turned everyone’s world upside down in so many unpredictable ways,”
Michelle said. “This is particularly true with young people in our community whose lives were
not built on the most solid foundations to begin with. A lot of our youth have experienced a lot
of family turmoil and chaos in their lives during the pandemic which just added to the
uncertainty of it all. Our primary focus is to help youth and families build a greater sense of
safety and stability in their lives so they can confidently take on whatever challenges are
coming next,” Michelle said.

Over the course of the year, we are going to check in periodically with YC counselors and youth
development professionals to see how they are helping their students adjust to the new
normal. Just imagine how much harder it would be for these students to succeed in school and
in life without the help and support of counselors like Michelle, Natalie, and Laura.

Healthy Communities Foundation Awards YC Grant

Healthy Communities Foundation has awarded YC a $130,000 grant to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities by promoting health equity, quality, and access. “Youth Crossroads’ community-based, integrated approach to addressing an increased need for mental health services for youth and their families has been instrumental in Berwyn and surrounding communities during the pandemic,” said Nora Garcia, Healthy Communities Foundation Director of Programs. “We look forward to our continued partnership with Youth Crossroads as we work towards an equitable recovery for residents in our service region,” Garcia said.

Warm Coat, Costume and Book Distribution Event

Youth leadership students hosted a coat, costume and book distribution event for 3–10-year-olds on Tuesday, September 28 at Youth Crossroads. Youth leaders read stories, created fun activities, and distributed books, costumes, and winter coats to more than 50 children. Thanks go to our partners, World Vision’s Operation Warmth for donating the winter coats; Immanuel Lutheran Church for donating the Superhero, Toy Story, and Princess costumes; and United Way of Chicago for donating the books.

Oz is running the Chicago Marathon for Youth Crossroads

Oscar Zamudio, long-time friend, and supporter of Youth Crossroads is running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 10 to raise money for the organization’s counseling services and youth development programs. Donate today

Youth Crossroads Distributes Food to 3,845 Local Families

In response to the growing crisis of food insecurity in our community, Elida Ortiz, YC’s Community/Parent Liaison, helps youth and families gain access to food resources. Eli has built a network of food depositories and volunteers in the community which have distributed more than 130,000 pounds of food to families in need, and cash assistance. Eli has also been instrumental in connecting residents to vaccine information and vaccinations.

YC Trains 20 Counseling Interns

YC introduced a new class of interns in September to support school-based counseling through the school year at Morton East High School, Morton West High School, the Morton West Freshman Academy, the Morton East Freshman Center, Morton Alternative, Heritage Middle School, Freedom Middle School and Lincoln Middle School. The interns received 64 hours of training in trauma response and social justice, social emotional learning, cultural competency, creating safe spaces, and powerful interventions. YC interns are earning their degrees in clinical social work and counseling.