LIFT Champaign program set to launch

LIFT, or “Leading Individuals and Families to Transformation” will begin operation Thursday. The city of Champaign has invited the public to a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house tour of the LIFT facility on Nov. 4 at 4 p.m.

The program, run jointly by the city of Champaign and Unit 4 school district, aims to support African American youth in grades K-12 and their families who experience “significant challenges academically and personally,” according to a press release posted today. LIFT will provide “trauma-informed care through intensive wraparound support and connections to both school-based and community resources,” with an emphasis on success in the face of adversity.

A cohort of city staff members introduced an outline of the LIFT plan to city council in April. An early report reads: “The City and School District continue to see an unprecedented number of African American youth and their families struggling in the areas of academic achievement, discipline, suspensions, school absenteeism, community violence, mental health and trauma.”

The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission identified 37 children during its annual point-in-time survey of the county’s homeless population in May. CCRPC identified 29 children in the 2020 survey. Neither count found children living in “unsheltered situations.”

59.2% of students in the Unit 4 district live with low-income families, which is 11.1% higher than the state average overall, according to the 2020-2021 Illinois Report Card — an annual collection of data used to evaluate statewide public education by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The city of Champaign also announced today that LIFT partnered with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor’s Office of Public Engagement and the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA) to help oversee the program’s success.

The LIFT program facility can be found at 815 N. Randolph St., in the former Novak Academy building.