Mission & History
Chicago Youth Centers invests in youth in underserved communities in Chicago to help them discover and realize their full potential.
Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) is Chicago's largest independent, locally based,multi-site youth services organization, with eight neighborhood centers on the south and west sides of Chicago and Camp Rosenthal, a summer residential camp in southwestern Michigan. CYC is dedicated to improving the lives of low-income, at-risk children and teens through a variety of innovative and effective programs—from early childhood education to and through college.
Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) was founded in 1956 by two visionaries, Chicago businessmen Elliott Donnelley and Sidney Epstein, who wanted young people living in poverty to have an alternative to the streets.
CYC was born out of three boys' clubs that had fallen on hard times. With the merger of the American Boys Commonwealth Club and the Boys Brotherhood Republic in North Lawndale together with the South Side Boys Club (later renamed the Elliott Donnelley Youth Center) in Bronzeville, a new city-wide agency was formed: Chicago Youth Centers. From the very beginning, girls were admitted to all programs, a first in the city.
In 1960, Fellowship House, a long-time immigrant settlement agency located in Bridgeport, joined with CYC and, two years later, CYC acquired a former YMCA camp in southwestern Michigan, Camp Makisabee (later renamed Camp Rosenthal), so that inner city children could enjoy a residential summer camp experience.
The Young Men's Jewish Council Youth Center located in South Shore became part of CYC in 1977 as the South Shore Community Center, later renamed the Rebecca K. Crown Center.
Centro Nuestro was the first new center opened by CYC, in 1979, offering programs in Humboldt Park to the Latino community. Other centers were added according to neighborhood needs as the years went on and, as neighborhoods changed, locations were consolidated or closed.
Today, CYC offers services to children and youth ages 3 — 19 in seven neighborhoods (Bridgeport, Grand Boulevard/Bronzeville, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, South Shore, Riverdale/Altgeld and Roseland) through eight community centers and at CYC-Camp Rosenthal in Dowagiac, Michigan.