Illinois youth unemployment at staggering levels during pandemic

  • The unemployment rate in 2020 was 29% among young Blacks and 25.7% among young Hispanics in Illinois.

    The unemployment rate in 2020 was 29% among young Blacks and 25.7% among young Hispanics in Illinois. Getty Images

Updated 11/2/2021 6:09 AM

At the height of the pandemic, youth unemployment rates skyrocketed in Illinois.

In 2020, it soared to a staggering 23.3% -- 29% among Blacks and 25.7% among Hispanics.


Though gains have been made this year, the solution to economic empowerment for young people is increased workforce development programs, said Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin M. Norington-Reaves.

The partnership primarily serves young people through community-based organizations. With greater demand, it is expanding youth and young adult resources through the American Job Center Network.

The network offers workforce development services at sites throughout Chicago and the suburbs, including Batavia, Elgin, Grayslake, Lisle and Wheeling.

"Young adults can now come to these sites and receive access to job leads in high-demand industries, education and training resources, personalized career advising and paid internships tailored to the needs of 18- to 24-year-olds," Norington-Reaves said.

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The partnership's programs include Opportunity Works, a paid internship program training young adults in suburban Cook County, connecting them with businesses seeking employees and providing an online career exploration portal.

Thai cooking and legal aid

The North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic is hosting monthly virtual cooking demonstrations with professional chefs during which attendees will have a chance to anonymously ask clinic attorneys questions about domestic violence help.

The next session is with the chef Aphisak "Jimmy" Seriruk of Jimmy Thai and Ramen Time restaurants in Deerfield from 9 to 10 a.m. Nov. 11. Seriruk has made appearances at Chicago Gourmet in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Demonstrations will include a live chat via RingCentral. Guests can log on using an alias throughout the hour. Registration is not required.

To join the free event, visit jid=1499519838.


The clinic offers free legal services to low-income residents of suburban Cook and Lake counties in the areas of domestic violence, immigration and housing. For more information, visit, call (847) 737-4042 or email

Craft sale

Aurora University students will be selling handmade crafts by Nicaraguan women through Friday.

The public is invited to participate in the bazaar from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Crimi Auditorium atrium, 1347 Prairie St. in Aurora. Admission and parking are free.

Funds raised through the effort, hosted by the Spanish Language Association student club, will benefit the Pulsera Project.

The Charleston, South Carolina-based nonprofit educates, empowers and connects Central American artisans with students at more than 3,000 U.S. schools.

"Bracelets are $5, purses $10 and headbands are $15," Denise Hatcher, student club adviser and Spanish professor at Aurora University, wrote in a Facebook post.

Helping underserved children

Women United of Lake County will host its signature fundraiser on Nov. 7.

This year's Power of the Purse will be a hybrid event. The in-person portion at Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove is sold out.

Tickets are available for the online event. Attendees can buy and bid on items, including dozens of designer bags, silent auction purses and baskets.

Proceeds will help send underserved children to Kindergarten Countdown Camp and buy books and toys for preschool learning centers in Lake County's low-income communities through Women United's Little Kids, Big Futures Fund.

Since 2014, Women United has raised and granted $850,000 for early education programs in Lake County.

Online tickets can be purchased at Buying and bidding begins at noon Nov. 7 and ends at 1 p.m.

Scholar talk

Jewish studies scholar Malka Simkovich will talk about "The Origins and Significance of Jewish Universalism" on Nov. 9 for this year's Abraham Joshua Heschel Lecture at Elmhurst University.

Her talk is part of the university's Religious Literacy Project.

Simkovich is the Crown-Ryan Chair of Jewish Studies and director of Catholic-Jewish Studies at Catholic Theological Union. She wrote "The Making of Jewish Universalism: From Exile to Alexandria" (2016) and is involved in interreligious dialogue projects to increase understanding and friendship between Christians and Jews.

Simkovich's articles have been published in the Harvard Theological Review and Journal for the Study of Judaism and online forums such as The Lehrhaus, and the Times of Israel. Her book "Discovering Second Temple Literature: The Scriptures and Stories That Shaped Early Judaism" received the 2019 AJL Judaica Reference Honor Award.

The Heschel lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Frick Center, Founders Lounge, 190 S. Prospect Ave., Elmhurst. Admission is free. Reservations are encouraged at

Kids gala

Chicago-based nonprofit Kids Above All will host its annual fundraiser as an hourlong virtual event at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 10.

The nonprofit will recognize Power Construction of Chicago and Northbrook-based IDEX Corporation with the Lucy Rider Meyer Humanitarian Award for corporate service and leadership, respectively.

Since 2017, Power Construction has helped complete volunteer beautification projects at each of the nonprofit's three DuPage County group homes for teens 13 to 18 years old who have experienced trauma. It also donates toys, clothing and books to the nonprofit's yearly holiday gift drive.

IDEX has donated $90,000 supporting Kids Above All's HIPPY program for kindergarten readiness, toward its diversity, equity, inclusion and access efforts, supporting former homeless young adults with groceries, furnishings and rental assistance and providing experiential and holistic therapies for teens and young people who have experienced trauma.

The Youth of the Year award recipient is Sofia Gonzalez, of Crest Hill, Illinois, a former participant of the group's Camp Sheilah program, which helps young people ages 7 to 17 and their families cope with the loss of a parent or sibling to homicide.

Proceeds from the gala will support the DuPage County group homes. To register, visit

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