Chicago summit aims to keep kids safe from violence this summer

ByTre Ward and Stephanie Wade WLS logo
Monday, June 5, 2023
West Side summit aims to keep kids safe this summer
Chicago students are taking part in a Summer Safety Summit at Metro Farms in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dozens of students took part in a Summer Safety Summit at Metro Farms, an urban farm in Humboldt Park, Monday.

Community leaders are offering students ways to help stay safe this summer once school lets out.

Each step taken within the farm, housing different plants, vegetables and fish, is a chance to learn more and do better.

"We teach youth and seniors health eating, changing their eating habits, giving a non-violence environment," said Treana Johnson of Urban Transformation Network at Metro Farms.

Chicago shootings: 46 shot, 9 fatally, in weekend gun violence across city, police say

For students like 15-year-old, who said she was only 8 when she was caught in a shootout, it's an opportunity to escape what she describes as violence in her community.

"It really hit me that I could've lost my life. I could've lost family members," Brown said. "The mindset is the strongest part of you, so if you believe that you can go out and do something else instead of just trying to be what everybody else says that you can't be, believe that you're more than what people say that you are."

They're urging them to look for summer jobs, watch out for one another, stay away from guns and drugs and keep their parents informed of their whereabouts.

They say through farming, teaching them that if you care about the food you put in your body, where food comes from, you'll care about your community more and respect the value of life.

"We're really trying to reach the youth. If we can reach the youth, we can reach the adults. That's the connection," said Donald Patterson, president and CEO of Urban Transformation Network at Metro Farms. "As the seeds and the plants grow, you grow, so we're trying to connect the dots. Even violence is curbed by your diet, your intake, what you put into your system, so we're teaching them agriculture. That's where it starts."

Local elected officials are also at the summit, showing their support for programs like these.

"It just shows me that, like, it's far more better things than just like being on the streets and gang-banging," said Majesty Barfield, 14. "It's stuff that you can actually do to actually make a good living, and actually help the community."

Organizers said the Humboldt Park location will be open throughout the summer in an effort to keep young people busy and safe through the season.