Beyond the Classroom

Beyond the Classroom

The Adventures of a Prairieland United Way student intern

by Julie Butler

When the words “crisis intervention” and “homelessness” are mentioned, it is easy for people to automatically assume that these are issues affecting the adult population of the world. Unfortunately, however, these hardships can affect children and youth as equally as it does adults. At Midwest Youth Services (MYS), located at 2001 W. Lafayette Ave. in Jacksonville, executive director Ann Baker works closely with her team, other agencies and the juvenile justice system to ensure that those who are affected are not alone and receive the proper help.

Midwest Youth Services is an organization that is pertinent to the community. When the organization first opened, it was a simpler “mom and pop” place. Now, MYS is flourishing and is able to reach new demographics. The case management and crisis intervention sectors that the organization has implemented are open to youth ranging from 9-17 years old. The homeless youth program is open to people from ages 9-24. These are not the only services offered, though. Clients may need services such as opportunities for community service hours or transportation to community service. When Midwest Youth Services offers community service to their youth clients, they will also report those hours back to the education system, law enforcement or municipal court if necessary for the individual client. There are numerous important services that are offered by MYS to youth in the community, and these mentioned are only scratching the surface.

Baker discovered Midwest Youth Services when she was working on her thesis for her master’s degree in criminal justice and interned with the State of Illinois. During this internship, she learned of MYS and immediately fell in love with the organization and the services it offered. To begin her time at Midwest Youth Services, she worked part-time doing crisis intervention on the weekends and eventually was able to work up to the executive director position. Baker states that the executive director position is not just a job for her. She has had staff that has been the only support to women during the labor and delivery of babies. She and her team also get to work with people from different professions every day — mental health workers, criminal justice workers and policy workers, to name a few. Something that she loves about working for MYS is the ability for clients for have been successfully or unsuccessfully discharged from the program update her on their lives. She has had numerous cases where her clients have come back and let her know they have their own car, a job, a house or a family. The fulfillment that moments like this give Baker and the rest of the hard workers at MYS is incomparable. She says that the moments like this are the big successes, especially when MYS never knew they were making such an impact on that client.

In the future, Baker hopes to implement growth and sustainability in Midwest Youth Services. The organization has currently been working on getting a living space set up for the homelessness program, and Baker is excited to offer peace of mind and decrease trauma in the clients that will utilize this space. Beyond the technicalities of MYS, Baker also wants to remind people to have grace and compassion as one never knows when you will be the one that is making a difference in someone’s life.

To learn more about these services, contact Midwest Youth Services at 217-245-6000 or visit their website at

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