Our Chicago: Women work to educate and protect young Chicago girls

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, March 27, 2022
Our Chicago: Women Educate, Protect Young Chicago Girls Part 1
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Diane Latiker is the founder and president of Kids Off The Block, which works with youth from low-income families to give them positive alternatives.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As we wrap up Women's History Month, we're speaking with two Chicago women who are working to protect and educate children.

For these women, their missions began when they listened to kids, understood their needs and set out to address those needs.

Diane Latiker is the founder and president of Kids Off The Block, which works with youth from low-income families to give them positive alternatives so they don't get involved in gangs, drugs, violence and the juvenile justice system. Kids Off the Block got its start when Latiker began taking her daughter and her daughter's friends fishing and swimming to keep them busy. Nearly 20 years later, the organization and its mission continue. Sadly, so is the violence that impacts so many Chicago children.

"They don't want to be a part of it," Lakiker said of the children she works with. "They don't want to have anything to do with it, but it's like it's part of their culture and their norm. And I really like hold adults accountable for that because we as politicians, as faith leaders, as stakeholders , as regular people, we should have been at the forefront of making sure our children didn't see this as normal."

For those who looking for a way to help young people, Latiker had advice.

"I don't care where you are, violence affects everyone. Look around you. Somehow or another reach out to those young people. When I was young, I needed that. I needed someone in my community to reach out and tell me 'I'm here for you. I can help you. I will help you,'" Latiker said. "Look around and if you don't want to do that. If you don't want to get out there with those young people or help them, go to organizations that do support them. They need all of your support especially now."

Our Chicago Part 2

Another woman helping to educate and support girls and young women is Chez Smith. She is the founder and executive director of Gyrls In The H.O.O.D Foundation. In this case, H.O.O.D stands for healthy, optimistic, outstanding and determined. The foundation began by providing girls with reproductive and sexual health education so they can make informed and responsible choices through a program called "Degrees B4 Diapers."

"We are delivering reproductive health education to girls that is medically accurate, age appropriate, and just comprehensive but we do so in a non-judgmental environment," Smith said, adding that they "specialize in meeting girls where they are."

And for parents wondering if the program is right for their daughters, Smith said, "Absolutely. There isn't a girl in Chicago that this program isn't for because all girls need to have access to information if we really want them to make informed choices and if we're putting them on the path to being empowered women."

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