Youth Policy Making

Click here to read the City Youth Councils' 2012 Policy Papers.

At Mikva, we believe that youth deserve a place at the table of city and school leaders who make public policy that significantly affects Chicago youth. Through Mikva’s school- and city-based youth policy councils, we hope to:

  • create structures within city government that incorporate youth input in policymaking and budget deliberations;
  • connect a broad base of youth to adult decision makers via the youth councils;
  • positively affect policy; and,
  • develop a cadre of strong youth leaders committed to public service and activism both now and in the future.

Our policymaking programs include:

Peace and Leadership Councils

Tilden PLCPeace Week

Peace and Leadership Councils (PLCs) currently operate in seven high-need Chicago high schools: Marshall, Fenger, Harper, Richards, Tilden, Wells, and Clemente. PLCs also operate in five Chicago middle schools: Reavis, Perspectives, Ames, Marquette, and Orozco. The young people in Mikva’s school-based PLCs research issues in their school, create recommendations for school change and serve as advisory councils to their principals and school administrators.

Chicago Youth Councils


The Education Council (formerly the Youth Innovation Fund) is composed of 15 youth from high schools across the city and advises the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Education Council members also convene to train both youth and adults on issues including security in Chicago Public Schools, creating successful youth-adult partnerships and empowering students to improve their schools.

CEO Brizard MeetingStudent on FOX

Last year, the Education Council shifted focused on answering the question, "How can Chicago high schools effectively deliver the skills and knowledge needed in the 21st century?" The Council developed a comprehensive list of 15 recommendations they believe will better the Chicago Public School System in the areas of curriculum, technology, resources, and student-teacher accountability. Read their policy recommendation paper, click here.

In the summer of 2012, the Education Council worked to answer the question, "How can Chicago high schools create more positive and rigorous school cultures?" They created a policy guide and tip chart for principals and educators. Check out their guide here.

Teen Health

Formed in the summer of 2008, the Teen Health Council meets weekly to research, debate and report on policy recommendations that significantly impact youth on issues ranging from nutrition to mental and sexual health. The Teen Health Council works in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Health.

Bidders ConferenceCYC

Last year, the Teen Health Council set out to answer the question, "How can youth activism philanthropy catalyze a teen health movement in Chicago Public Schools?" A full report outlining the results of their research can be found here.

During the summer of 2012, the Teen Health Council sought to address the question "How Do Schools Create Effective and Sustainable Youth Wellness Teams?" A Youth Wellness Team is a school-based group of student leaders that work with their administration to promote healthy living, implement new health policy, coordinate school-based health programs, develop youth leadership, and amplify youth voice.

The Teen Health Council created a toolkit containing a list of 15 different projects a Youth Wellness Team can implement at their school within the areas of obesity, mental health and sexual health. For each proposed project the Council lists how the solution has worked in the past, people to work with to make the project a reality, and the specific actions a Youth Wellness Team can take to successfully implement the project. Check out their Toolkit.

Youth Commission

In the summer of 2011, the Mikva Youth Safety Council and the Mikva Out-of-School Time Council combined to form the Mikva Challenge City Youth Commission. The Youth Commission is a group of twenty youth leaders from different high schools and colleges/universities throughout the city. The Commision meets with city leaders including the Mayor and other decision makers in City Hall.

Action ResearcgCYC with Mayor

During their first summer of operation, the Commission were committed to answering the question, "How can the city of Chicago better utilize the expertise and leadership of young people?" They developed a list of twelve recommendations to better incorporate youth voice into City Government, the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago Transit Authority. Read their full policy recommendation paper titled, "Youth Voice: Ushering in a New Era for Chicago," click here.

During the 2012-2013 school year, the Youth Commission is working on the issues of education, safety, employment, health, and recreation. Over the summer, the Commission produced a State of Young Chicago Report for the Mayor. This report is based on findings from a survey of over 800 youth, neighborhood visits, direct conversations with young people from other youth-oriented organizations, and supplemental research. Read their report here: The State of Young Chicago Report.

The Youth Commission also put on 2013's Youth Solutions Congress. Read more about the event here.

Juvenile Justice Youth Council







In partnership with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Judicial Advisory Council, Mikva Challenge launched the Cook County Juvenile Justice Youth Council (CCJJYC) in the summer of 2013.  CCJJYC serves as an advisory and advocacy body which provides diverse youth perspectives on policies and programs involving young people and the criminal justice system, with a particular emphasis on how to reduce rates of incarceration and recidivism among juvenile youth in Cook County.  This inaugural summer the Cook County Juvenile Justice Youth Council is working to address the following framing question:  What tools, policies and practices do youth need to positively transition from corrections to community?

The council is striving towards answering this question by investigating current policies relating to the juvenile justice system and making site visits to detention centers to find the root causes of the high incarceration rates among Chicago youth. They are also integrating new digital forums and social media in their daily work plans. At the end of the summer, they will frame a set of recommendations and present it to President Preckwinkle and Juliana Stratton, the Cook County Justice Advisory Council Executive Director, who will then set the council’s agenda for the rest of the year.

After School Matters Council

This year, Mikva added a brand new council to the Citywide Youth Council family. This fourth council acts as a special teen advisory board to After School Matters, the Chicago nonprofit dedicated to providing out-of-school time programming to students accross the city. The ASM Council bring the youth voice to the nonprofit. It helps support After School Matters by serving as marketing researchers and general advisors on topics such as  what programs teens are most interested and website accessibility.

You can read about our other two program areas too:

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