Level Up 

M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment™ University LEVEL UP Career Readiness & Leadership Program for girls ages 16 to 24;  provides a year-round (September thru December and January thru May) workforce training and educational enhancement opportunities for girls ages 16-24 who live in the Chicagoland area and surrounding suburbs. 90% of our participants are African American. There are a total of 8-sessions and each session is approximately 2 hours. The sessions are designed to outline skills necessary for post-graduation, professional and career development, and mental wellness.

Our program offers participants the opportunity to attend seminars and workshops on resume building, interview skills, workplace etiquette, leveraging LinkedIn, and financial literacy. Participants are equipped with the skills and tools necessary to be productive in their careers. Through seminars, interactive activities, and mock interviews, our young ladies build on their pre-existing leadership skills and character traits such as honesty, personal accountability, learning to listen to the viewpoints of others, critical thinking about life and sound decision making that they gained during their matriculation throughout all of MGE programs.

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  • Unemployed youth are at higher risk for unstable housing, substance abuse, crime, and unplanned pregnancies.

  • In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the poverty rate for youth ages 18–24 was 13.3 percent—well above the rate of 10.5 percent among all adults.

  • As of July 2020, young people of color were suffering unemployment rates over 45 percent. Experts estimate that the number of opportunity youth (those ages 16–24 who are not working or in school) will top six million as a result of the pandemic.

  • Freshmen enrollment in higher education declined 13.1 percent in fall 2020, driven by an unprecedented 21 percent decline at public two-year colleges.

Reference for all four:

The Issue


Eligible Participants  


  • Girl must be enrolled in MGE program during the current application year

  • Low income and/or at-risk in-school and out-of-school girls ages 16-24 who can document Illinois residency and are able to provide an I9 prior to employment. 

  • Girls living in a single-parent household

  • Girls experiencing academic difficulties

  • Girls in danger of or has been previously held back to repeat one or more academic years

  • Girls experiencing truancy concerns

  • Girls who reported to have behavior issues

  • Girls who reported to be a victim of bullying

  • Girls who reported to be a perpetrator of bullying

  • Girls who have current or prior DCFS system involvement

  • Girls who experiencing homelessness

  • Girls who have a disability

  • Girls with no work experience

  • Girls with a history of employment failure

  • Girls with one or both parents who are incarcerated

Our core curriculum aims to achieve the following goals

  • Improve time management in our young adults and teach them how to prioritize tasks. 

  • Improve work life balance to prevent burn out which allows the young ladies to further pursue graduate and professional degrees.  

  • Promote financial literacy so that the young ladies know how to set goals, budget, save money, utilize credit, and invest so that they may become thriving adults. 

  • Show young ladies how to leverage LinkedIn and the importance of networking to secure job opportunities.

  • Assist with resume’ building and mock interviews. 

  • Help young people succeed in jobs, entrepreneurship, and ongoing career learning.

  • Connect young ladies with successful women in their career of interests to serve as mentors that help with career trajectory.