50 Years of Empowering Young People

From its inception, Response for Teens has been serving the diverse needs of teenagers and their families in the Jewish and general communities, helping young people deal with life’s challenges. Here are some highlights of our history through the decades. For the full story, watch our historical video.

1972: After drug paraphernalia was found in a local park, a group of Jewish Federation agencies with both resources and expertise came together to start The Drug Response Program.

Focused on serving adolescents in crisis by providing counseling, outreach, and medical assistance, the Jewish Children’s Bureau, Jewish Family and Community Service, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish Vocational Service, and Mount Sinai Hospital were the founding organizations.

1984: Response moved to the original Skokie location and saw an increase in family counseling.

1985: Operation Snowball began as a substance abuse prevention program. Still active today, Snowball is a safe space for everyone to express themselves.

1985: Recognizing teens and all they can achieve has long been part of Response’s history, beginning with the Harry I. Hoffman Award.

1987: The AIDS epidemic was affecting much of the country, which prompted the Response Center to develop a peer leadership program that educated young people about the risks of HIV and AIDS.

1988: Response created programming for Soviet teens and their families resettling in the Chicago area, focused on the unique needs of young people starting a new life in the United States.

1992: Volunteers committed to generously giving their time and resources to support the future of Response came together as the first Lay Response Council or LRC.

1994: Response received a substantial grant from the Illinois Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to fund prevention services at New Trier, Niles, and Northfield Townships School Districts.

1998: Response opened a second location in Buffalo Grove, moving to Prairie View one year later.

2001: Response first displayed the “Clothesline Project” aimed at creating awareness of the problem of domestic violence and sexual abuse in our society.

2008: The first Response website was launched, a new logo unveiled and relationships with middle schools developed to address the issues impacting teens at a younger age.

2008: The first Tuned In event was held, showcasing teens from 5 area high schools. The event committee included Jill Bernstein, Shari Zenner, Terri Freedman, Donna Field, Susan Friedman, Amy Herzog, Jill Katlin, Lauren Kohlenbrener, Arlene Lewis, and Wendy Nathan. Bruce Sher directed the musical production.

2015: Response LGBTQ programming is created to support teens on their journey of self-discovery as they start to explore their sexuality and how they identify in terms of gender.

2019: Funding issues forced Response to stop offering sexual and reproductive health services for young adults and shift to sexual health education.

2021: The Seigle Building in Skokie was transformed into a modern space and the new home to Response for Teens.

2022: The Wellness and Expressive Arts Initiative (WEXi) is launched as an opportunity for young people to regain a sense of resilience, community, and meaning by engaging in a variety of group activities that promote wellness.