Our Chicago: Keeping Children Safe & Youth Joblessness

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, June 9, 2024
Our Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For 55 years Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development, known as BUILD, has dedicated its time to youth in Chicago.

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The West Side organization reaches more than 2,500 youth each year through its gang intervention, violence prevention and youth development programs.

This summer organizers have a slate of events for children, teens and their families.

Chief Program Officer for BUILD Monique Draper described what they're trying to create with their summer programming,

"A sense of relaxation. A sense of safety. An opportunity for kids to just be kids. They have the opportunity to just relax, ease, safety," Draper said.

She added that they know it's a successful event because families always return.

"They bring their friends, they bring more families. Because it's also open to community we have a lot of our neighbors to come out. They bring their families and they are repeat visitors to the campus. And then they're always asking us, 'What's the next thing? What are we doing next?'," she said.

Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development reaches youth through Chicago gang intervention, violence prevention and development programs.

But it's not only about events, it's about building relationships.

"Mentorship is the cornerstone of everything that we do. We have our youth that are connected to mentors here. Every youth gets a mentor," she said. "It builds those positive relationships with youth and their families. When we have mentors, the kids call them up. When they graduate, they're at other events, they become part of the family. So we become part of their family."

For many young people in Chicago, the employment outlook is bleak.

A new report looks at youth employment in the city and Cook County after the pandemic.

It found that young people in Chicago, ages 16 to 24, had higher rates of unemployment than the national average. Black and Latino youth were more likely to be unemployed, than White teens.

In some Chicago neighborhoods, the Black youth jobless rate was 92%. The report was commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network and written by the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Executive Director of the non-profit Alternative Schools Network Jack Wuest joined ABC7 Chicago.

"The neighborhoods are in dire straits. They don't have much in the way of an economy, very few jobs. What used to be an industrial economy in the 50s, 60s is a service economy," he said.

Executive director of the non-profit Alternative Schools Network Jack Wuest said youth misses out when they can't find a job.

Austin, the Southeast Side and North Lawndale are the neighborhoods with some of the highest youth unemployment rates.

Young people miss out when they can't find a job, he said.

"They learn how to show up on time, getting paid is a big incentive, it's their money and it helps their families too. Having that first job, if they've never had it before, succeeding, getting there regularly, getting along with people and getting paid that's a big deal."

For more information on BUILD Inc. visit https://www.buildchicago.org/

For more information on the Alternative Schools Network visit Home asnchicago.org.