Bounce For Joy Project brings 'joy' to Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As a mother, Ronda Howard knows how important it is for kids to have something to do after school.

"I was really volunteering in the schools and I saw and noticed that children were very angry and I wanted to come up with a program to help children have fun and release that anger," Howard said.

So she created the Bounce For Joy Project with Dr. Dakeda Horton, a former social worker at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. The project is focused on teaching kids how to handle negative emotions, like anger.

"It's an issue, it's a problem and we have to do better with helping our kids to build their toolbox on how to deal with these kind of issues," Horton said.

The program lasts for six weeks and is taught on-site in schools, summer camps, churches and community centers. Each week, students learn different ways to cope with their emotions through a variety of exercises.

"The first step we learned was that you got to know how you're feeling, the second is that you might explode, the third one is consequences," student K'Juan Williams said.

The three steps help the kids think more carefully about how they want to respond to the challenges they face. Once they figure out how they're feeling, it's up to them to decide how to respond.

"You don't want to like burst out or say something that you don't really mean," Kemeriell Hunter said. "That happens to a lot of people, they say 'I hate you' or something like that, and hate is a strong word."

Students also learn about their civil rights and how to channel their feelings into something productive like art, fitness and STEM activities. The project's goal is to help keep kids off the streets while they're not in school and to create a mindset that could prevent kids from going to jail.

"Normalize the behavior and letting them know that it's okay to be angry, it's a normal emotion. But it's what we do with that that can sometimes get us in trouble," Horton said. "Just getting them to understand that there are options, alternatives to fighting, shooting and killing."

The Bounce For Joy Project is only available in communities on the South Side of Chicago, but is hoping to expand its reach soon.
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