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Maggie Daley’s After School Matters programs turns 20

Chicago's After School Matters program marks its 20th anniversary with celebratifor nocrowd Daley PlazWednesday June 29 2011. Members organization's Joffrey

Chicago's After School Matters program marks its 20th anniversary with a celebration for a noon crowd at Daley Plaza Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Members of the organization's Joffrey Summer Intensive, all high school students, were among those who performed. | Rich Hein~Sun

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Updated: June 29, 2011 7:59PM



One of former First Lady Maggie Daley’s greatest gifts to the city, After School Matters, turned 20 years old Wednesday.

What started as a summer arts program, known as Gallery 37, which hosted 260 kids under a few white tents on a vacant lot downtown — now gives 20,000 Chicago public high school students a chance to find their passion in robotics, sports, dance, jazz, book clubs, urban farming and more.

And though Mrs. Daley, who’s been battling metastatic breast cancer and was recently released from the hospital, was not in attendance, the fruits of her efforts were on display Wednesday afternoon in Daley Plaza as kids sang, dancers hopped and twirled and a jazz band provided cool tunes. There was birthday cake, too.

“We are all stakeholders in the future of Chicago teenagers,” said Mrs. Daley in a written statement. She said she created the program because “as a mother of two teenagers at the time, I didn’t see any cultural outlets for them.”

Actress Joan Cusack, who emceed the event, said she knows the importance of finding something to do after school. “I was so grateful for the Piven Theatre Workshop,” said Cusack, referring to an acting program started by the parents of fellow actor and Evanston native, Jeremy Piven. “It saved me. ... It’s pretty hard being a teen,” said Cusack, who noted the program keeps kids safe and busy in the vulnerable and unsupervised hours that follow the last school bell.

After School Matters, the largest program of its kind in the country, also offers apprenticeships which reward teens with a stipend and internships through a network of public and private partnerships.

If not for the skateboard design program he’s in, Jesse Osaro would “probably just be lazy around the house.” Osaro, 16, is currently building a piece of art shaped like a man out of skateboards.

“It’s a good way for kids to invest in their artistic abilities,” said Osaro, who attends Chicago High School for the Arts.



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