'Urban Initiatives' working to stop the violence

A local non-profit called Urban Initiatives is working intensely in Back of the Yards neighborhood to be a part of the solution and help stop the violence.
October 25, 2013 3:43:06 PM PDT
Just one month ago, Cornell Square Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood made national news as the site of a mass shooting that wounded 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy.

Students are now reclaiming that park to use it as intended. A local non-profit called Urban Initiatives is working intensely in that community to be a part of the solution and help stop the violence.

Students from the Richard J. Daley Elementary School don't have an organized soccer team through their school, but with Urban Initiatives they do get to play.

"Urban Initiatives started ten years ago running sports-based youth development in Cabrini Green and since then we've expanded into schools all around the city," said Urban Initiative's Brendan McAlpine.

Students also get life lessons that seem to stick.

"They talk to us about self-esteem, what we have to eat to stay healthy, what we do to stay strong and things so we won't be mean to other people," said 9-year-old Axel Madero.

"They teach us like not to eat a lot of junk food," said 12-year-old Damaris Arellano. "A little bit is OK but not a lot. How to stay healthy like what is good for you and what is not."

Urban Intiatives works in 29 Chicago Public Schools. They serve more than 11,000 students each year, mostly in underserved neighborhoods plagued by gangs and violence.

"It's amazing. Looking out here you see children playing in a park that a few weeks ago was roped off because it was a crime scene," McAlpine said. "The opportunity for children to come out into the park and claim it back as their space through sports and through physical activity gives them the opportunity to build confidence."

Parents say structured sports and leadership skills are much of what's needed to keep kids on the right track.

"It's better for them to be in sports than just hang around with friends and then they'll become like gangbangers and everything," said Mayra Gonzalez. "So I think it's better for them to be like in a sport than being on the streets."

In addition to the after school programming, Urban Intiatives also works with students before school and during recess to provide children with structured play activities.

For more information and a complete list of schools: Urban Initiatives


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