LUV Institute helps young ex-offenders on right path

December 13, 2013 (CHICAGO)

It also hopes to spark some career ambition. It is how the founder of the LUV Institute shows her "Spirit of Giving."

They look as good as any wreath you'd purchase in a department store, but they are assembled using mostly donated items in a Hyde Park garage. These high school students are making them as part of an entrepreneurial program called wreaths of LUV.

"We took them through a series of workshops that helped them to say, 'How do I take a concept and turn it into a product?' So they came up with Wreaths of LUV," said Cosette Nazon Yisrael, founder, The LUV Institute. "They developed all the language for it, resourced the product for it and now we have Wreaths of LUV."

The program is organized by the Love, Unity and Values Institute, LUV for short. The non-profit youth agency offers programs geared toward college and career development.

"We noticed that we could drastically modify the behavior of a young person by actually putting them to work and actually showing them the various things that they could do," Yisrael said. "What's great is even the students in this program are now thinking, 'What entrepreneurial endeavor can I create?'"

The teens in this program have had trouble with the law and are on probation. The hope is that some guidance and positive direction will steer them toward a productive path.

"I don't like looking for trouble," said 17-year-old Monaye Morrison. "I'm not looking for trouble at all. So I think this will help me to see what I want."

"There are people out there that still believe that you can turn negative things into positive things," 17-year-old Davisha Junius said. "They don't look at you just cause you got a felony: 'Aw she's got a felony. I don't want to deal with her. She's bad. She's got a bad background. We don't want to deal with her.' They give people like me a second chance on life."

The wreaths of luv sell for $35 each. The students will operate a pop-up shop on Saturday at the Harper Theater in Hyde Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. They are also taking orders on-line.

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