ICOY Presents 2024 Champion of Youth Award to Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch

Publisher: Conor Van Santen

WESTCHESTER, IL – The Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY) Board of Directors and members have presented Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Emanuel “Chris” Welch with the 2024 Champion of Youth award. This award is presented yearly and recognizes an individual’s commitment to the children and youth of Illinois.

Speaker Welch has proven himself to be a stalwart advocate for Illinois’ youth and youth service providers. ICOY is supremely grateful for his outstanding leadership and his role in securing substantial investments in community-based child welfare and youth services, including $230 million in violence prevention, afterschool, and youth employment programs for FY25.

“Speaker Welch has truly embodied the spirit of our Champion of Youth Award through his tireless efforts leading the Illinois House to invest in youth,” said ICOY Chief Executive Officer Andrea Durbin. “Our Board of Directors, staff, and members are proud to present Speaker Welch with this award. His willingness to step up and ensure funding to address youth homelessness, youth poverty, and violence prevention and so many other important issues is immensely appreciated.

“We look forward to a continued collaborative partnership through our policy and advocacy efforts on behalf of children, youth and family wellbeing in Illinois.”

The $230 million in funding that Speaker Welch incorporated in the FY25 budget the General Assembly passed earlier this year includes:

  • $30 million in additional funding for violence prevention
  • $150 million for youth employment
  • $50 million for afterschool and summer programs

Speaker Welch Champion of Youth Press Release[64]

Welch has been a fierce advocate for young people throughout his career in the House and now as its Speaker. ICOY especially admires his commitment to addressing Illinois’ shameful record of underinvestment in families and communities of color, and to improving the state’s health, education, justice, and economic systems through the Black Caucus’s landmark Pillars legislation so that all Illinoisans may thrive.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed longstanding weaknesses and inequities in our state. Under Welch’s leadership, Illinois has seized opportunities to advance child and family wellbeing in new and impactful ways.

“I am thrilled to accept ICOY’s 2024 Champion of Youth Award. Throughout my time in the Illinois House, both as a member and now as its Speaker, I have always kept Illinois’ children and families at the forefront of my efforts,” said Speaker Welch. “While there will always be more to do to ensure that everyone in Illinois may thrive, I look forward to working with ICOY and its member organizations to make our state the best place it can be for young people.”