JTHS says YESS to new funding plan


Budget cuts at the Will County Health Department presented a serious threat to the Joliet Township YESS program, but the problem was resolved at the end of the summer. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune website.

Mae Mastin, Copy Editor

Budget cuts at the Will County Health Department presented a serious threat earlier in the year to the Joliet Township YESS program, which provides critical services to struggling teens within District 204.

The health department, previously the backbone of the Youth Experiencing Success in School program, has lost almost $1 million of its funding since last year.

An August 2, 2015 Herald News article explained, “Joseph Troiani, behavioral health programs director at the Will County Health Department, said the department has lost four state grants this year totaling more than $850,000, as well as a revenue lost for service fees.”

The project is an important part of the JTHS district programs, designed to assist students who face issues such as drug and alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy. In an email, Jenine Barnes, director of YESS Services for Joliet Township High School [JTHS], called the program “an important topic and focus for our district.”

The YESS page on the JTHS website lists “Community Partners” who offer services for emotional support, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, juvenile justice, violence, and after-school opportunities. These partners include Joliet Police Department and Guardian Angel Community Services, among others.

The program also hosts many support groups, such as Girl Space, Children of Divorce, Stress Management, and Young Parenting.

The Will County State’s Attorney addressed the funding cut and the importance of the program earlier this month. A September 2, 2015, JTHS press release reported that the funding issue had been resolved. “Will County States Attorney James Glasgow, a YESS partner since the program’s inception, immediately contributed $10,000 in emergency funding to keep the program operating while community leaders worked on filling the $90,000 gap,” the press release said.

At a separate meeting, the Will County Board of Health gave the additional necessary funds to meet the program’s needs.

The article continued, “In the remaining months the high school district will work with the Will County Health Department to put a plan in place that will sustain this portion of the YESS program for years to come.  McCarthy will bring YESS partners and community leaders back together in April to review the entire YESS program and celebrate its successes.”

The program was originally funded with a five-year grant. A JTHS press release from November 2009 reported that the program had received $43,000.

The press release stated, “The grant was awarded by the Will County Community Foundation, an organization founded in 2006 when local leaders partnered with the Chicago Community Trust to identify community needs and priorities and promote philanthropy within the county to meet those needs.”

Michelle Zambrano, speaking for Will County Behavioral health, said, “After the grant was finished, Will County Health Department stayed committed and allowed the program to continue.”

The Community Foundation of Will County website defines YESS as providing mentoring, career introduction, and service learning opportunities, stating, “The program creates opportunities for students to become involved in school through community partners.”

Zambrano indicated that any JTHS student can take advantage of the assistance the program offers.

She explained, “We provide individual therapy, case management, [and] some crisis stabilization as well as group counseling.”

According to Zambrano, students can enroll in the program through their guidance counselors, deans, or social worker. Joliet West students recently saw an advisory presentation explaining the YESS program and were later contacted with information about how to sign up for support groups.