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The Alternative Schools Network envisions a global community where every individual has access to equal educational and employment opportunities.

Working in partnership with community-based organizations & schools, the Alternative Schools Network will re-engage a diverse community of learners to actualize their true academic potential & personal goals by promoting educational innovation, workforce opportunities & civic participation for future leadership and service.

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A Black Tie Affair
Junior-Senior Prom 2016

As research has shown, youth who are engaged in their lives have significantly reduced opportunities and desire to participate in destructive interactions or illicit activities. While Prom Night may occur only once per year, the planning, anticipation and preparation for Prom begins far in advance and occupies much time and attention, thus reducing the chance of exposure to violence.

Many of these youth never dreamed they would have a chance to attend a high school Prom. Yet ASN has made Prom Night a reality that is imaginable and attainable. As a result, Prom is considered a privilege, a once-in-a-lifetime, pivotal event with such significance that students are willing to rise above differences and comply with a zero-tolerance expectation of no violence, or even displays of anger, at the Prom.

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Every May for the past 16 years, between 800 and 900 students from the majority of ASN’s member high schools cross gang lines, territories and neighborhoods to converge at the Chicago Sheraton downtown for a celebratory Prom Night. While bringing together youth from so many rival areas can frequently create opposition, no violence or gang issues have occurred.

Illinois ranks 24th in the nation in teen unemployment. High Unemployment Rates Potentially Escalates Teen Violence in Chicago Streets.
The report, The Summer Jobs Outlook for Teens in the U.S., conducted by the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University projects that nationwide the teen summer employment rate will be 29.8 percent this summer.

In Chicago, nearly 40,000 youth between the ages of 15 and 20 and approximately 97,000 youth ages 16 to 24 are high school dropouts. These teens and young adults often find their personal circumstances too insurmountable to overcome on their own in order to stay in school.

Yet without a high school diploma, the implications for these youth, and the community as a whole, are severe:

  • Prison Pipeline: Youth dropouts are more likely to be involved in destructive interactions and illicit activities, making them prone to incarceration.
  • Job Loss: They are less likely to receive skills and experience needed for employment, which also impacts the development of the future workforce.
  • Tax Revenue Loss: Dropouts earn less over their lifetime which equates to fewer tax contributions for the community.
  • Taxpayer Costs: Over the lifetime of each dropout, taxpayers bear the cost of approximately $290,000 due to loss of tax contributions, increased public assistance costs and correctional costs.

The Alternative Schools Network (ASN) believes that every youth is entitled to not only education, but the support services they need to help them succeed in obtaining their high school diploma and transitioning to the workforce.

In 1973, a group of alternative high school representatives established Alternative Schools Network as a vehicle for resource development, joint programming, and advocacy on behalf of inner-city youth who had dropped out of high school and low-skilled adults.

Today, ASN is a membership-based organization composed of 43 not-for-profit, independent, and self-governing alternative schools, as well as youth and adult education organizations. Through our partnership with these community-based and community-run programs and organizations, we create effective and innovative programs to re-engage more than 3,500 Chicago underserved and marginalized groups each year in successful education, employment and support services.

ASN serves as a conduit for the work of its member schools and community-based programs, connecting the mission, goals, strategies and outcomes to create a unified community of active participants in programming. Through this role, ASN is able to link the voices of its partner communities to marshal resources and expertise that will improve the outcomes for its target populations.

The ASN’s staff’s work centers around three strategic areas of focus:

  • Resource Development
  • Technical Assistance & Training
  • Advocacy & Shaping Of Programs & Policy

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Our goal is to ensure that youth and young adults receive engaging and positive academic and wraparound programs and experiences, both during and after school, in order to:

  • Increase Graduation: Increase the likelihood youth will stay in school and graduate.
  • Violence Reduction: Reduce exposure to violence and chances of incarceration.
  • Prison Reduction: Offer an alternative to the school-to-prison pipeline for at-risk youth.
  • College Prep: Prepare youth with essential skills for continuing on to college and earning a living wage.
  • Job Prep: Provide a successful transition to the workforce.
  • Civic Engagement: Develop skills necessary to be productive and empowered citizens.
  • Leadership Development: Positively impact communities through cost savings, increased safety, leadership development and ensuring a strong foundation for the future workforce.
  • Mainstreaming The Margins: Create a future for marginalized youth.