First Lady Michelle Obama will join Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a coalition from Chicago’s business and philanthropic communities to support successful community-based programs that serve at-risk youth. The effort, which is being spearheaded by Allstate Chief Executive Officer Tom Wilson and Loop Capital Chief Executive Officer Jim Reynolds calls on Chicago’s business sector to raise $50 million to support proven programs that serve at risk youth across the city.
“The greatest thing we can do as a city is give our children the support they need to build a successful life. There are proven and successful programs that are creating a brighter future for some of our most vulnerable children in every neighborhood, and people from all corners of our city are stepping up to invest in them,” said Mayor Emanuel. “We are honored to have the First Lady’s support in this effort. I will work tirelessly to provide safe alternatives that reduce the risk of our kids getting involved with drugs, gangs, and violence.”
The First Lady will join Mayor Emanuel, Reynolds and Wilson at a meeting with leading Chicago businesspeople and philanthropists titled “Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago” on April 10, 2013.
The coalition led by Wilson and Reynolds will include several leading executives and philanthropists, as well as an advisory committee of community leaders, researchers and criminal justice practitioners who will ensure that input is received from residents in neighborhoods across the city.
“Chicago stands united in providing a safe and bright future for our children. Born and raised on the southside, I know all too well the impact that violence has on both our communities and our children’s chances for a full and successful life,” said Reynolds. “We expect the business community to play an important and active role in answering the Mayor’s call to invest in programs that serve some of our most vulnerable children.”
“Chicago's businesses are partnering with social service professionals and community groups to make our neighborhoods safer for innocent children,” said Wilson. “The current level of violence has been decades in the making and is unacceptable. It's time to fix this the Chicago way, working together.”
Specifically, the business community challenge will support mentoring, intervention and conflict resolution programs, provide seed funding for new programs, and work to rebuild community supports in neighborhoods most impacted by violence. The committee’s four responsibilities include:
The committee will measure program success in terms of its impact on individual behavior and school achievement levels, as well as cost-effectiveness and reduction in violent crime across the city.
In conjunction with these efforts, the Mayor has announced an expansion of programs that serve at-risk youth, including Windy City Hoops, an innovative year–round basketball league that starts in March. The City’s program is aimed at enhancing neighborhood safety, engaging at-risk young adults, and reducing illegal gang activity in targeted neighborhoods. Last summer, 3,000 kids registered in Park District teen basketball leagues. And the City has invested a total of $4.5 million to ensure an additional 5,500 at-risk youth have access to critical programs like “Becoming A Man” (BAM), which is run by the Youth Guidance organization. This and other similar programs have demonstrated results such as reducing the number of failing grades and arrests, increasing graduation rates, and keeping youth from joining gangs. BAM participants saw a 10 percent increase in graduation rates, a reduction in failing grades by 37 percent and a decrease in violent crime arrests by 44 percent.
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