Juvon, a seventh grader at Neal Math and Science Academy, remembers what he was like in third grade. “I was a bad child. Cussing at teachers, running out without permission. Now I pay attention more, and focus more on the work,” says Juvon, who lives in North Chicago with his mother, grandmother and four siblings. “And, I’m more confident.”

Juvon has worked hard to improve as a student, an athlete and a person. He likes science, math and playing his oboe. But he did not get to this point alone; he has had the support of positive role models and friends through the After School Program, Saturday Enrichment Program and other opportunities created by NCCP. These are the kind of programs that were long absent from North Chicago schools, though they are routinely available in districts that have more resources than the North Chicago community.

Take the NCCP Quite Zone program, for example. Quiet Zone is a lunchtime program that students, such as Juvon, choose to attend. “We learn how to respect others, and treat people as we want them to treat us,” Juvon says. In the program, students have a chance to practice important social skills through interactions with friends and positive adult role models in a controlled setting. But for Juvon, Quiet Zone just feels like fun.

On Saturday mornings, Juvon and other students go to the school to engage in a variety of activities through NCCP’s Saturday Enrichment Program. Following a morning of character education-infused basketball and other sports, dancing, arts, games, special guests and more, students, NCCP staff and volunteers enjoy a meal together, and discuss the skills that are necessary for success in school, work, and life.

In addition to the socially, emotionally, and academically-focused programming in which Juvon participates, he and his family also benefit from NCCP’s backpack program, which provides them food donated by the Northern Illinois Food Bank sufficient to feed three children over the weekend.

Juvon has participated in NCCP programs since he was in sixth grade. “Juvon is involved in all of our programs, and has shown great growth from last year to this year,” says Josh Franklin, Program Coordinator for NCCP. As Josh speaks of Juvon’s progress both in and out of the classroom, he talks specifically about Juvon’s ability to now channel his once hard-to-control energy, into athletics. “Now, when he needs to, he finds a way to calm himself down inside,” says Josh. “And he is most definitely a student-athlete.”

Before Juvon took part in NCCP programs, he was scared to go out for the basketball team. But when the NCCP staff and friends in the program started believing in him more, Juvon found the courage to try out for the team, and soon after, his name was called. “I found out I made the team,” he smiles. “I was so happy.” As a student these days, Juvon says that he “wants to see more math classes” at the school. “I’m really into it, and it’s a challenge.”

When asked how he sees his future, he talks about something much broader than school or career goals. “My dream,” Juvon says, “is to be confident and never give up.”