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Lightfoot announces summer employment opportunities for Chicago youth

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Mayor Lightfoot and other Chicago leaders announced expanded Sunday hours at CPL and the opening of a new library branch on the Far South Side Wednesday.

Video Transcript

LORI LIGHTFOOT: Good morning, everyone, and thank you all for being here. Let me start by acknowledging the other leaders who were here with us today. First and foremost, Alderman Tony Beale, whose ward we're in; CHA CEO Tracey Scott; CHA Authority Commissioner Debra Parker; and board chairperson Andrew hurlock; Chicago Public Library Commissioner Chris Brown; Chicago Public Library President-- board President-- Linda Johnson Rice; Department of Family and Support Services Acting Commissioner Brandie Knazzi; One Summer Chicago Director Lisa Davis; CHA Altgeld Gardens resident and mother of two [? Arshay ?] Grimes; and of course, my wife, first lady Amy Eshleman, who's also here with us this morning.

As mayor, one of my greatest joys is visiting a neighborhood, particularly one like this, to announce a new improvement or investment. But that joy always gives a little extra special when it's happening at a library. It was my own local library where my love of books and reading really began to grow. And the library was, for me, an important safe space.

For me, checking out books meant checking into imaginary places and being exposed to ideas totally unlike my current circumstances, giving me the ability to explore my own curiosity and gain a deeper understanding of the world. I'm old enough for folks that-- when I was growing up, there were no such things as computers. What we turned to were encyclopedias. And we loved our librarians because they were our guides. They were our browsers, if you will, to help us explore the world.

As someone whose family didn't have a lot of money, public libraries were an accessible gateway for me to gain knowledge, inspiration, and in many ways, a freedom. It took freedom of thought and inspiration to lift myself up from my current circumstances and to dream about a different kind of life.

And now, in the 21st century, they've become even more than that. No longer are libraries just places to check out books. They are community anchors and meeting places, early learning and job training centers, digital support spaces, and places for residents to learn a new skill or even learn about their rights.

It's clear that libraries provide an incredible number of resources, and that was reinforced on the tour that we just took. But in order for them to be as impactful as possible, they must be accessible as possible to our residents. And that means 7 days a week.

That's why I've been a huge advocate for expanding Sunday hours to all of our public libraries since the beginning of my administration. In June 2019, which seems like a long time ago, I joined former Chicago Public Libraries Commissioner Andrea Telli to announce the first expansion of Sunday hours, which added Sunday services to nine branches. And now, just in time for National Library Week, I'm excited to announce a second round of Sunday hours expansions to 10 more of our library branches.

Starting Sunday, April 18, the following branches will be open Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00-- Independence, Mount Greenwood, and South Shore, Back of the Yards, Chinatown, and Edgewater, Merlo, Austin, and Richard M. Daley, and the brand-new, state-of-the-art Altgeld branch we're in right now, which I want to especially-- I like-- you can clap for that.


This branch is a true embodiment of what we mean when we say libraries are the social and cultural nucleus of our communities. It's our city's newest library branch, having just opened last December. And it's Chicago Housing Authority's newest mixed-use facility for the Altgeld Gardens community.

What's unique about this branch is that it will not only serve the social and educational needs of this community, but also provide social supports through a daycare center, which is set to open soon. By being located within an affordable housing community, this branch will support our far south side residents, who are predominantly Black, and ensure that they have plenty of opportunities at their fingertips to become whoever and whatever they want to be.

It's in this spirit of empowering our residents to chase their dreams and accomplish their goals that I want to promote another exciting announcement. Applications are now open for One Summer Chicago. You'll remember that last summer, a lot of other cities, in the face of the pandemic, decided it was too much. And they didn't have a summer program, a jobs program, for their young people.

That was not the model of Chicago. We still persevered and hired thousands of young people. And again, this summer, we are open for our young people to have meaningful summer experiences. One Summer Chicago is a youth empowerment program that is an integral part of My CHI, My Future, our city's signature youth focus initiative that is designed to connect our young people to meaningful out-of-school experiences.

And when we first launched [? OSI ?] last summer during the height of our first COVID-19 surge, it became the largest summer youth employment program in the entire nation, employing over 20,000 young people and engaging them through virtual programming that provided in-depth insight, resources, and guidance as they pursue careers in the fields represented by the host companies participating in the program. This year, One Summer Chicago will run from July 5 to August 13 and will include remote and socially-distanced, in-person job and life skills training for young people ages 14 to 24 interested in fields such as coding and tech, health care, media, and so many other opportunities.

Applications officially open March 26 and will close Friday, June 1. And folks, with over 21,000 slots-- please let me repeat that, 21,000 opportunities for our young people to participate in meaningful employment opportunities this summer. So if you're turning it in right now and are between the ages of 14-- I should say if you're tuning in right now and you're the ages between 14 and 24 or know someone who is, please don't delay. Make sure you fill out that application, onesummerchicago.org. That's onesummerchicago.org.

Taken together, initiatives like One Summer Chicago and resources like our public libraries provide important opportunities for residents of all ages to skill up, find financial stability, and above all else, chase their dreams.

Let me just depart from my prepared remarks and talk to you a little bit about what we just experienced in our tour. People coming to this library are gonna meet a staff that is energized and enthusiastic about really reaching beyond these walls to embrace the whole of this community. We just came from the space where, talking to staff there, they're really interested in the social and emotional development of the young men and women of this community.

So I want to make sure that, for the Altgeld residents, you understand that this resource is here for you. It's here for you to make it what you need it to be. And you've got a willing staff who's here to support you in every interest and endeavor. That's important.

This community, unfortunately, way too many times, gets forgotten. It's physically isolated from other parts of Chicago. So it's important to us to be very intentional about making sure that Altgeld is not lost in the shuffle and that we do everything we can to make sure we're responsive to the residents of this great community.

Lots is gonna be happening here. But I want to make sure in particular that residents understand this is your library. This is a safe space for you, and particularly for the young people. The staff is excited and really enthusiastic, from [? UMedia ?] to the way in which they set out the furniture to be intentional, the collection that's here, it's about supporting and reflecting the experiences of the people in this community.