Keefe Baines could have been what many people call a statistic. He was a young, black, unemployed male from the West Side of Chicago, who had previous run-ins with law enforcement. However, with self-determination and help from his mentors at UCAN, Keefe is now on the path to success with dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.
Before becoming a part of UCAN’s 360 Community program, Keefe did not have a stable place to live and was without family support due to his transition from being a youth in the care of the state. Like many youth in this situation, he found himself in challenging positions where he had to make critical decisions. Once paired with Patrick, his mentor from UCAN, Keefe began to flourish. In addition to the support that he received when at UCAN, his mentor also was a source of support during his court trials. Keefe explained, “I didn’t have anyone to talk to before I came here. My mind was on the streets.”
Through UCAN, Keefe participated in the 360 Community program where he developed a relationship with his mentor and he now has a positive role model for guidance or a listening ear. “He taught me how to be mature and how to fit in when I’m in different environments.”
Through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program (WIOA), Keefe learned essential skills that helped him prepare for job seeking, interviewing and maintaining employment. Through the program he was even provided with clothing for his interviews.
“They did interview coaching with me. I got some janitorial jobs and I was working at Auto Zone.” Since coming to UCAN Keefe has completed high school and received his commercial driving license. Encouraging conversations from his mentor regarding staying on track and exposure to people and activities outside of his community have helped to motivate Keefe for the future and drive his aspirations to become a business owner. He has made more connections and built a greater network.
“I know more people to help get more leads to better myself,” he stated. “This has been positive overall. I don’t put myself around certain people. I know I have to be wise, make good decisions and be on task, get the job done and be successful.”
When asked what he would tell other youth about UCAN, he said, “If you really want to be successful you put 110% in and don’t slack. You just have to be ready to work. If I never went to 360 I would have no job leads and no high school diploma. I would probably be right out here hanging on the street. Supporting UCAN is important because without these programs there are kids out here that really want to do something but have no connections. They do have motivation to work so it is important to give them some help,” Keefe added.
“There are programs out there but not enough. Some may only have 35 kids but if people spend more, people they can get more kids in the programs. There are thousands of kids but little opportunities so if people donate more money there are more funds to come in to build places for these kids to be successful.”
For more information on UCAN’s 360 and WIOA programs, please visit ucanchicago.org/programs.