About REAL

REAL Mission Statement

The REAL Youth Program is committed to informing and arousing communities to the various identities, thoughts and concerns of children and adolescents.

Program projects, whether in the form of a publication, an audio compact disc, a video journal or a community forum, come out of a teamwork approach that begins and ends with young people interpreting and expressing their own issues and concerns.

It is REAL's desire to support all youth and help build strong communities through collective thought and action.

What is REAL?

The REAL Youth Program was created in 2000. It is designed to be a multi-faceted youth program, intended to capture the attention and membership of elementary and secondary students by offering them safe classroom spaces to creatively express themselves through primarily arts-based projects, critical literacy activities, and life-skills curriculum. Student groups are focused in the areas of writing and literacy (e.g., poetry, oral narrative, hip hop, and social commentary), videography (e.g., student documentaries), sketch artistry, and website construction.

While some meetings spotlight these student interests, others center life-skills topics such as: building self-esteem and community, coping with peer pressure, breaking cycles of gang/domestic violence, youth incarceration, policing of schools, community gentrification, conflict resolution, academic achievement, challenging media stereotypes, safe sex, anger management, career planning, and personal/cultural definitions of success.

REAL Concepts

Under the careful guidance of adult facilitators, the program utilizes the following four concepts to inform, arouse, awaken and empower young folks from all locations and backgrounds:

  • Respect: Understanding the meaning and importance of respect for myself, my family, my peers and my community.

  • Excellence: Striving for achievement and personal excellence both in and out of school.

  • Attitude: Keeping a positive attitude in the face of challenging and adverse situations.

  • Leadership: Learning to be a leader, as well as a team player. I am the definition of success.

Since its beginning, REAL has gradually developed into a well-established youth program in the Chicago-land area. The program partners with other local area schools, youth programs, and literacy and social justice organizations. In spite of its growth, the mission of the program continues to be:

  1. Provide an in-school forum where students are able to freely express themselves, utilizing critical literacy and arts-based curriculum;

  2. Develop positive social, emotional and intellectual growth through small group dialogue and critical thinking, reflection and action;

  3. Expose students to our world community, as well as to the idea of networking.

By using a teamwork approach, students also plan and execute, with the assistance of adult facilitators, a variety of marketing endeavors (e.g., student journals, self-designed t-shirts, and audio compact discs). These student-generated projects are designed to carry student voices beyond the four walls of the classroom and into their communities. Any funds or proceeds earned from our marketing ventures are accredited to a collective account so that students earn and save money for future group projects or other preferred experiences.


Within a socioeconomic framework, the need for youth mentoring is often a response to already existing community circumstances. More and more youth are finding themselves disconnected from a nurturing family structure that provides love, understanding and guidance. Children from a variety of environments need to feel a sense of recognition, empowerment and agency, particularly in cases where they are underrepresented or underserved both in and out of the school setting.

Part of the REAL Youth Programs mission is to advocate for young people and help them counter the negative feelings, treatment and perceptions they experience on an everyday basis. It is our passion to help balance the scales for children and adolescents by offering them keys to doors that are often and otherwise locked.

The adult facilitators of REAL firmly believe that it is imperative to meet young people where they are socially and emotionally, while assisting them in becoming life-long learners and agents of personal and social change.

Role Models

The REAL Youth Program maintains that children and adolescents need to see and experience role models as they progressively move into adulthood. Moreover, they should know that there are other members of the community outside of the home and school setting who are concerned and want to ensure their success in life.

By being there for these young people on a constant and consistent basis, REAL creates an environment to assist students in fostering their own particular talents and gifts. REAL strives to help students see the value of living healthy lives and transforming personal goals into lived realities.

Our program philosophy maintains that we need to acknowledge the lived realities of children and adolescents. We must endeavor to hear their voice and support their dreams. We should celebrate their achievements, as well as help them work through their mistakes. We can listen to them and look inside their hearts. Indeed, we must love and respect them.

Youth mentoring is a human practice. It is found in our schools, our homes, and our communities. Our support of young folks is a holistic endeavor that seeks to know and engage them in and outside the school. To come to know students in these spaces, to observe how they interact, to understand how they negotiate within these worlds, and to be there to assist them if wanted, is not only the the work of mentoring, but also of loving and understanding young people. It is a practice that can be carried over into any corner of any society.

All content (c) 2005 REAL Youth Program, Inc.