BAM program targets Chicago youth to help stop violence

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Mentoring children to help stop the violence is a major part of Mayor Emanuel?s plan to curb crime and bloodshed in the city. (WLS)

Mentoring children to help stop the violence is a major part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to curb crime and bloodshed in the city.

BAM stands for "Becoming a Man." It is a 15-year-old program which targets at risk male students in Chicago Public Schools.

It is one Mayor Emanuel said has proven to be successful with a 50 percent reduction in arrests for violent crimes among BAM students.

"I want to the city of Chicago to look at these men, because they are men that they are, making the right decisions because we gave support to them," Emanuel said.

And the mayor is offering more support. In his speech on violence, he said the city will spend millions on expanding the BAM program in the city's most violent neighborhoods.

"The BAM program is a pretty good program no doubt about it, but the fact of the matter is many of programs he is helping to grow aren't impacting the kids who need it the most," Mack Julion, St. Sabina Youth Program, said.

Mack Julion said the kids who need it the most are not in school, the ones he and Lamar Johnson try to reach through their youth program at St. Sabina. They said those kids are more likely to commit and or be victims of crimes. While the program's Peace Basketball League has helped youth get off the streets, funding has been cut during the past two years.

"It needs to be quality across the board, if you give funding to one program do the same across the city," Lamar Johnson, St. Sabina Youth Services coordinator, said.

Johnson and Julion are disappointed the mayor doesn't have a plan to target gang members beyond school walls.

"You've got to start somewhere," Emanuel said. "And taking the 20 most difficult neighborhoods, and getting every eight grader, ninth grader and tenth grader, every year for the next year, ensures that we don't have another generation lost to the gangs and to violence."

While the mayor admits more work needs to be done to target youth not in school, he disputes the notion that the city isn't doing enough.
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