Community Youth Development Institute


Brief History

Roots of CYDI Our school community includes students from Auburn Gresham, Englewood, and surrounding Chicago communities. CYDI started in 1996 due to the lack of services and the high number of out of school youth. Pastor Aaron and Mable Royster started the school as a small GED program with only 40 students in New Joy Divine Church at 76th and Halsted. The school reached the small number of youth and due to increased demand, the school began to expand. CYDI became a campus of Youth Connection Charter School in 1997 and began offering a high school diploma as a charter school. In 2002, the school relocated to the current site at 78th and Union and has grown to more than 270 students. WHAT WE DO Community Youth Development Institute (CYDI) is a community based alternative high school for youth that have not thrived in traditional settings. We are a successful alternative school because we offer a different program and different approach than schools across Chicago. We provide hands on curriculum that helps students gain marketable skills and prepare for life after high school. Our academic system provides flexibility in the ways that credit can be earned or awarded and provides students with personalized learning opportunities. These strategies include online and blended learning, dual credit and dual enrollment and, project-based and work-based learning, and credit recovery. This type of learning leads to better student engagement because the content is relevant to each student and tailored to their unique needs. It also leads to better student outcomes because the pace of learning is customized to each student. We integrate core curriculum into workbased learning opportunities throughout the program to get our students CYDI ready. They get to demonstrate mastery of job-specific skills through curriculum that is both project-based and directly connected to the competencies they are working to develop. Students working towards mastery of skills and competencies have increased ownership and motivation to complete given tasks and meet expectations. It also gives students a sense of purpose, a high level of confidence in their abilities, and ample opportunities to develop essential 21st Century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and communication in authentic contexts. Our system to have all of our graduates CYDI Ready has multiple pathways to graduation, makes use of integrated instructional technology, takes advantage of learning opportunities outside of school hours and walls, and help identify opportunities to target interventions to meet the specific learning needs of students.

Mission Statement and/or Core Values

Our goal at Community Youth Development Institute High School is to prepare our students to be “CYDI Ready,” which we use as a flexible concept that encompasses both college- and career-readiness. In many cases, students will work towards both at once- many of our students graduate high school with not only their diploma in hand, but also some college credit, work experience and/or a specific industry certification.

Student Demographics

The CYDI student body consists of students ranging in age from 16-20 with the majority of our students residing in the Auburn Gresham, Englewood, and surrounding communities.


The school has graduated more than 1200 students with many of those students going on to attended community colleges, local colleges, HBCU’s military and other vocational opportunities Level 1 School- CPS SQRP

Programs Offered

  • Hands-on Learning Labs – Construction, 3-D Printing, Fashion Design, Music Production and Recording, Personal Care, Urban Agriculture, Graphic Design
  • Virtual Reality and Gaming Construction Pre-Apprenticeship program
  • Job Training Certifications Comprehensive Support Services Work Base Experience Dual Enrollment

Career Pathways

  • Construction 
  • Construction Pre-Apprenticeship 
  • Digital Graphic Design 
  • Fashion Design 
  • Urban Agriculture 
  • Entrepreneurship 
  • 3-D Industrial Design 
  • Digital Multimedia 
  • Information Technology 
  • Trade 

Success Story

It is an understatement to say that his life has been challenging. Michael* has dealt with addiction, poor attendance and grades, and involvement in the justice system. Attempts were made by the YB staff to deal with his drug use and improve his performance at school. The final blow was when his family evicted him from his home and charged him with domestic battery. While providing counseling and support throughout his difficulties, the YB team believed this was a turning point for Michael*. Previous employment efforts were not successful due to his lack of commitment in maintaining regular attendance and tardiness. The team stepped in, found him housing and provided transportation and support with his various court appearances. Michael* began to realize that the change had to come from him. He then began to realize and appreciate the support he had from the YB team and vowed to do better. After a series of unsuccessful attempts at finding employment Michael* began to show signs of wanting more for himself. We believe another turning point was when he was slated for hire by one of the YB employment partners but was turned down due to his open domestic battery case. At this point Michael* became serious about changing his circumstances. The team recognized the changes in his behavior and assured him that he had our support. He was introduced to the Strong Futures program housed at St. Sabina Church. This program helps young males involved in the justice system and provides a comprehensive mentoring, substance abuse and job placement program. The Job Developer assisted him providing all the necessary paperwork and served as a character reference. She also served as the liaison for the school and YB program. We are happy to report that Michael* successfully completed their training program and started a position at a local area restaurant. While there he learned the importance of time management, workplace decorum and managing peer and manager relationships. He began to have regular attendance at school, completed his coursework and graduated in June 2021 with his high school diploma. Michael* now has his own apartment and began working at a big box retailer in September. As of January, he is still employed making $19 an hour. While the pandemic has upended the lives of many people, Michael is an example of how you can succeed despite the odds. *name changed to protect student’s privacy.


  • Executive Director: Aaron Royster
  • Program Director: Tamiko Winn

Contact Info

Address: 7836 S. Union Ave. Chicago, IL 60620

Phone: 773-224-2273 


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