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Rahm’s $50 million fund awards $1.7 million in grants for at-risk youths to prevent traditional summer surge of violence
Four months ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel challenged a business community that bankrolled Millenium Park, the NATO Summit and Chicago’s failed 2016 Olympic bid to raise $50 million over five years to save the lives of at-risk youth.
Now, the fundraising committee co-chaired by two corporate titans that has already raked in $42 million is distributing its first wave of grants in hopes of preventing the traditional summer surge of violence on Chicago streets.
“Youth throughout Chicago should be spending their summers building friendships and futures—not worrying about danger in their neighborhoods,” Allstate Insurance CEO Tom Wilson, co-chairman of the fundraising committee, was quoted as saying in a press release announcing the grants.
Loop Capital Markets CEO Jim Reynolds, the other co-chair, called the fundraising effort spearheaded by Emanuel “one of the most powerful and focused” he has ever been a part of in Chicago.
“I’m proud of the work we’re doing to change the lives of at-risk youth in our city..I’m especially excited to see the plan in motion, getting money out to deserving programs this summer, and can’t wait to see the results of our investment in these kids and their future,” Reynolds was quoted as saying.
The corporate largesse will pump $1.7 million into 11 non-profits that have pledged to offer job training, mentoring, character development and conflict resolution this summer to more than 3,000 young people in 23 Chicago neighborhoods.
The South Shore Drill team will get an unspecified grant to bankroll its “Sounds of Summer program.” Participants work on the famed drill team’s sound system in a job training program that helps them make decisions, set goals and manage their anger.
Youth Guidance is in line for a cash infusion to support the “Becoming a Man” program that drew the attention of President Barack Obama after Emanuel tripled city funding for it earlier this year.
The newly-funded B.A.M. program will provide summer jobs to at-risk youth tied to intensive mentoring and daily sessions aimed at building “social and emotional skills.”
Youth Outreach Services will place 160 young people who have been involved in the juvenile justice system at “worksite opportunities” that pair them with a mentor and offer them “job training and readiness skills” as well financial literacy training.
Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development will use its grant to support a “restorative justice program” that involves at-risk young people in activities after school, on weekends and during school vacations. Participants will get “intense” mentoring and case management for a minimum of one year.
Other recipients include: Kleo Community Family Life Center; Phalanx Family Services; Westside Health Authority; SGA Youth and Family Services; Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network; LISC; and the Ilinois African-American Coalition for Prevention.
The 11 grant recipients, each with, what City Hall calls a “proven track record,” were chosen from a pool that included nearly 60 applications.
The selection was based on a comprehensive set of criteria focused heavily on research that shows that programs with a social-emotional learning component have the potential to reduce violence by more than 40 percent.
Another round of competition is expected later this year.
David Spielfogel, a senior advisor to the mayor, has argued that the “amazing interest” from business leaders stems, in part, from the structure Emanuel has put in place to monitor the effectiveness of youth programs and make certain that every dollar raised is spent on kids.
An independent “Donor Advised Fund” will be housed at the Chicago Community Trust, with administrative costs raised separately. The Trust has also agreed to waive its standard processing fee to free an additional $300,000 to invest in youth programs.
The University of Chicago Crime Lab will evaluate funded programs, determine which ones are having sufficient impact to warrant further investment and which ones need work.
Nearly half the violent crimes in Chicago involve school-aged kids, roughly 7,500 of whom are considered high-risk. Another 12,000 young people are released from the juvenile justice system each year with 83 percent becoming repeat offenders within three years.
“Everybody wants to play a role in reducing violence in the city and they see this as their best avenue,” Spielfogel told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this year.
“We created a structure that gives them high confidence that their dollars can be effectively spent. This structure was never in place before. There wasn’t one place to invest with these types of strong rules around them.”
Roseanna Ander, executive director of the Chicago Crime Lab, has said the “level of commitment generated in pretty short order” underscores the “desire and appetite” among business leaders to be part of the solution.
“You cannot live in Chicago and read the headlines and not be affected by it and want to do something,” said Ander, who charted the impressive results from Becoming A Man.
“The reason we’re so encouraged about the direction this is taking is, we will be able to partner with funded organizations to evaluate what impact those new investments have in terms of real world outcome. Were there kids whose lives were made better? Did we actually have an impact on violent crime?”
If, as expected, the mayor’s $50 million goal is reached, City Hall plans to use $40 million to provide matching grants to proven mentoring and intervention programs based in and out of schools.
Another $5 million will be used as “seed” money for promising new programs that have not yet been evaluated. And the $5 million more will be used to “build community capacity and strengthen strong anchors” in neighborhoods besieged by gang violence.
Ander has said it’s high time that Chicago stop focusing exclusively on “what the Police Department does” to fight crime.
“They are not the entirety of a public safety strategy. Often, by the time the police are involved, we’ve missed multiple opportunities to prevent or intervene to ensure violent crime doesn’t happen,” Ander said.
“We know definitively that getting a kid to stay in school long enough to get a high school diploma has a causal link to reducing the chance of becoming a homicide victim or a perpetrator. That’s one area really ripe for strategic investment. If we keep kids in school and convince them to get diploma, we decrease the potential for males [to become victims or offenders] by 50 percent compared to a high school drop-out. If they even start college, they’re one-sixth as likely.”
Although Chicago’s never-ending battle against gang violence has made international headlines, Ander said it’s “not the only city struggling with violence and school drop-outs.” Nor does Chicago have the highest homicide rate. Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia have higher rates-per-capita, she said.
“As a society, we haven’t yet identified the types of interventions and strategies that are most effective reducing violent crime, improving school outcomes and reducing drop-out rate. If we had good evidence, we wouldn’t have every city doing different things,” she said.
“The way Chicago is going about this will inform Chicago and help us figure out what kinds of programs are giving us the greatest impact and need to be scaled up. But, it will also be important to other cities that don’t have the answers yet. Chicago is getting a lot of attention, but we don’t have the highest homicide rate. Other cities are struggling more than we are.”
Emanuel put his formidable fundraising skills to work for Chicago’s at-risk youth after the Jan. 29 murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendeleton.
A promising sophomore at King College Prep, Pendleton was shot in the back while hanging out with friends at a park a few blocks from the high school and less than a mile from Obama’s Kenwood mansion.
Her murder shined another unflattering international spotlight on Chicago because she was an honors student, a volleyball player and a majorette who had just performed with her high school band at festivities tied to Obama’s second-inauguration.
She lost her life to the very gang violence she had condemned in a 2008 public service video.
Since then, Chicago’s murder rate has declined significantly over the same period last year, thanks to an unseasonably cold and wet spring and the 400 off-duty police officers paid to work overtime each night in designated high-crime neighborhoods.