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Emanuel announces $2.6 million more to support youth mentoring programs

Mayor Rahm Emanuel | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is already using a $10.4 million settlement triggered by inadequate driver background checks by ride-sharing giants Uber, Lyft and Via to bolster mentoring programs for at-risk youth.

On Monday, the lame-duck mayor announced plans to make his pet project a focus of his eighth and final city budget.

The plan calls for City Hall to spend another $2.6 million to “expand and sustain” mentoring programs like “Becoming a Man (BAM)” with, what the mayor calls “demonstrable success in violence reduction.”

For the first time, the mentoring push that has been a cornerstone of Emanuel’s second term will “universally cover” 7th-grade boys at a cost of nearly $1.4 million.

That would bring the total number of 7th-graders served to 1,200 –– 600 more than the existing mentoring program.

The “One Summer Chicago” jobs program is in line for $500,000 in additional funding next year. That’s enough to provide jobs and internships for 450 more teens, up from 32,223 such summer opportunities.

After School Matters, the award-winning arts and education program pioneered by former First Lady Maggie Daley, will get an annual funding boost of $1 million.

Already, city support for the program bankrolls 15,935 slots.

Emanuel also plans to use his final budget address to the City Council to urge Chicago’s business and philanthropic movers and shakers to cough up enough money to provide universal mentoring for 11th grade boys.

Already, the city has pumped $13 million into the mentoring initiative that Emanuel views as pivotal to Chicago’s never-ending battle against gang violence.

Private sector support has added another $12 million.

In a press release touting the budget investment, the mayor argued that “guidance and support” from a mentor has the potential to “change the direction of a young person’s life and their family for generations.”

“By extending and expanding the reach of mentors across our city, we will help ensure more young Chicagoans can look back at the decisions they make today with pride and look forward to the future with confidence and hope,” the mayor was quoted as saying.

After announcing the Uber and Lyft settlement in mid-August, Emanuel made it clear that he would maintain his laser-like focus on youth mentoring.

“Chicago is at its lowest drop-out rate. There’s a lot that goes into that. But there’s no doubt that the mentoring program has had a significant impact on kids staying in school, finishing school and staying out of trouble,” the mayor said on that day.

“I would love to take this down to first-grade if the federal government was a partner, if the state of Illinois ever showed up and did something. … It’s already having a dramatic impact on their academic success and the way they make choices in life not to get in trouble, what to do in the evening. Imagine what could happen if we were down in first-grade.”