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Chicago group mentors foster children

Korey Edwards got suspended so often for fighting at age 12, he doesn’t remember how many times he was kicked out of school.

Eventually, he was removed from his North Side home and placed with three foster families before turning his life around.

Today, the Proviso West High School graduate works as an IT assistant at Chicago’s Children Home + Aid — the group that he credits with helping him.

The Chicago Children’s Home + Aid, which oversees 1,400 foster children in the Chicago area, has three mentoring programs: Foster Friend, Adult Connections, and Veteran Mentor. The programs mentor nearly 100 youths.

“Growing up knowing that just one person cares — that’s better than none,” said Vera Junge, volunteer coordinator of Chicago’s Children Home + Aid. “You really have to be serious about it and doing it for the right reasons. It’s a huge commitment and it’s something that can really damage a kid if done poorly. We want someone who’s doing it because all kids deserve love.”

The Foster Friend program helps mostly preteens. Mentors in that program primarily are involved in recreational activities with youth.

In the veterans program, military veterans mentor youth while Adult Connections help youth with advice on getting their first jobs. For example, mentors give advice on what type of clothes teens should wear on job interviews.

Edwards spent a lot time in the Adult program with mentor Stanley Lewy, a North Side retiree.

“I feel like having Stanley has been the best thing that has happened,” said Edwards, a 20-year-old Kennedy King freshman who plans to join the U.S. Marines in the spring. “He gave me so much guidance, courage and self-esteem.”

Edwards said Lewy also helped him to get a car by selling him a 1993 Volvo for $50.

“Having a mentor gave me something that I feel everybody should have,” Edwards said.

For more information about the program, call 312-455-5222.

This is one in a series of articles being produced through a partnership between the Chicago Sun-Times and the Illinois Mentoring Partnership.

Jillian Sellers, the author of the story, is a Northwestern University student.