Close to 60 local organizations that provide service to area kids attended a youth summit Friday in downtown Park Forest at Dining on the Green banquet hall.
Participants included Park Forest staff members, schools, public service agencies, local civic groups and churches, and representatives from the Institute of Juvenile Research and the University of Illinois at Chicago who served as facilitators for the day-long discussion.
The organizers of the event, Park Forest’s Recreation and Parks and Police Departments, said the goal of the summit was to find creative solutions to better address needs of youth and to have a plan in place and programs ready to go by the end of the 2017/18 school year. Participants met for close to six hours at Dining on the Green in downtown Park Forest.
“I am excited by the connections that were made between the various agencies providing youth services in Park Forest and with the discussions on how disparities in access to these services might be bridged through cooperation and communication. I am also eager to see how some of the program ideas discussed come to fruition,” said Park Forest Recreation and Parks Director Rob Gunther.
Though Park Forest’s Recreation and Parks Department offers over 100 programs for youth and Park Forest Police recently celebrated the 20th year anniversary of a police-sponsored mentorship program, Village leaders say serving youth is an ever-evolving mission.
“While the Park Forest Police Department is taking significant steps to improve our ability to meet the needs of juveniles we encounter, we know that criminal justice can’t be the only or best answer to addressing youth needs, even when it comes to delinquent behavior. It truly takes a Village, and this was the first step in bringing representatives from all different parts of the Village together under one roof,” said Park Forest Police Chief Christopher Mannino.
Park Forest officials said making the summit an annual event is possible though topic areas may change.