By Mark Gregory
Editorial Director 

604 Initiative offers mentorship to youth

Program focuses on giving minority and underprivileged youth the tools for success


Last updated 4/8/2021 at 11:25pm

If it truly takes a village to raise a child, then rest easy Will County - the village is here.

The 604 Initiative, a non-profit organization designed to serve minority and underprivileged youth in Northern Will County is "committed to educating and inspiring leaders of tomorrow through leadership and character development, mentorship and partnerships."

While the 604 Initiative came to be after the civil unrest in the world this past year, it is something Howard has been thinking about for a long time.

"This is something that has been floating around in the back of my mind for a while," said CEO Marc Howard, who works for the Village of Romeoville and also serves as head boys basketball coach for Romeoville High School. "We are all passionate about community and we all grew up in church organizations or little league sports organizations and we all grew up being mentored by companies we worked for as teenagers or adults in the community and I felt that was missing. With this new digital era, a lot of things we grew up with as kids has vanished and we wanted to bring it back and fine tune it and make it relate to kids in this generation.

"A lot of these kids have the skills where they don't see color or orientation, but they are missing some strong characteristics that we developed, like professionalism, structure and discipline. We want highlight the things that have and provide the things they are lacking. Because this digital technology, they don't understand how to communicate with an adult or authority figure."

Howard and COO Noel Maldonado, who is also employed by the Village of Romeoville, originally set out to create and village-based programming, however, leaders in Romeoville encouraged them to look beyond the borders of the village and serve a larger area.

"What we wanted to do was serve Will County and not just one particular town or city," Maldonado said. "We want to work with minority and underprivileged youth in the communities we call our home. We want to create a better space for them and break down some of the barriers they are having with older generations. The way to do that is to start a grass roots effort to give them the tools to be a better person, to be a leader, to be a more well-rounded person."

In six short months, the idea has come to life and the 604 Initiative has already begun programming to serve the minority and underprivileged youth in the area, while connecting those youth to programs already in place by other organizations they may not have known about - but this is just the beginning.

"I feel like we are just getting started," said Executive Director Bridgett Beene. "We have a ton of ideas for programs – we did our first one and it was very successful. We have a program in May where we are targeting the parents and giving them information and resources on how to support their children this summer. A lot of parents are feeling this school year, a lot of the kids didn't get the best experience with everything being online.

"We are also going to gather a ton of resources to share for summer camps and academic resources and free tools that will be available for them to take advantage of to help support their children's education."

At the end of May, the 604 Initiative will offer a program that aids first-time job seekers with filling out job applications, and how to land summer employment.

"We are not just offering our ideas," Beene said. "We are not the ones that will always do the programming. We are partnering with other organizations that we want to promote great things that are going on as well."

"We want to connect all the dots," Howard said. "There are so many organizations out there that people are missing because things aren't communicated as well. We want to be the umbrella. We will offer programs, but we also want to be a unique organization that everyone views as a partner."

Aside from being a community partner and bringing unique programming to the youth, the 604 Initiative is looking down the line to work on helping in the way of providing scholarships for athletic programs and bringing volunteer tutors to students that need help.

The 604 Initiative is a non-profit organization designed to serve minority and underprivileged youth in Northern Will County.

"From the feedback we got from our first workshop and all the support, it is moving in the right direction," said Board of Directors member Demetris Anderson, a member of the Romeoville Police Department and has served as a juvenile and school liaison officer. "This is our way of doing what was done for us. Recognizing the importance of coaches, pastors at our churches, educators, business owners - all coming together to do things behind the scenes that we didn't pay much attention to as kids, but now as adults, we understand the importance. This is our opportunity to get it started for a new generation and develop leaders."

With all four core members of the 604 Initiative being raised in the greater Joliet area and growing up to be leaders in their communities, they understand the importance of giving back.

"We feel that Will County has made us who we are as young people and now as adults and we want to give back to Will County," Howard said. "For the youth, no matter the color of their skin, to see an organization coming together for the betterment of all, it can inspire a lot of future leaders."

Programming notes and how to get in contact with the organization can be found on Facebook by searching '604 Initiative.' The website will be completed shortly and will be found at 604


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