UChicago Medicine awards more than $50,000 in grants

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CRUSHERS CLUB, a repeat grant recipient, uses boxing and music to develop bonds among at-risk young African-American men, encouraging education and discouraging gang participation. (Photo by Jean Lachat)

By Angela Wells O’Connor, The Forefront, Uof C Medicine

As part of its broader effort to address the public health crisis of intentional violence, the University of Chicago Medicine has awarded more than $50,000 in grant funding to seven local community groups for their summer violence prevention and recovery programs.

This is the second consecutive year UChicago Medicine has funded “rapid-cycle” violence prevention, intervention and recovery grants – named for the expedited application timeframe that ensures funds are available to organizations at the start of summer.

“These seven organizations are doing the important and necessary work to keep people safe,” said Brenda Battle, vice president of the University of Chicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative and chief diversity and inclusion officer. “This is especially critical in the summer months when school is out, the risk of violence runs higher and young people can benefit from having access to reliable safe spaces, as well as activities to build their leadership and life skills.”

One of the grant recipients is the Centers for New Horizons, which operates a summer program to serve young people in Bronzeville and surrounding communities who have had involvement with the justice system. Grant funding will help the organization expand its programming to provide cognitive behavioral therapy for those affected by trauma, a fitness program and training in restorative justice and conflict resolution, including Peace Circles.

“We are honored to be a recipient of a UChicago Medicine violence prevention grant for our summer REACH! program,” said Christa Hamilton, chief executive officer and executive director of Centers for New Horizons. “The summer months present a critical safety challenge for many of the youth we serve, so we are intentional about creating opportunities to keep them engaged. The grant will help us address some of the challenges our community faces with constructive, evidence-based solutions.”

Another grant recipient, Alliance of the SouthEast, plans to use funding to train African-American and Latino youth in peer mediation, leadership and conflict resolution. “At Alliance of the SouthEast, we believe it’s our responsibility to provide the tools and trainings to help young people carry out the change they want to see in their community,” said Lali Avila, the group’s youth coordinator. “This violence recovery and prevention grant will help us provide these essential resources to those who can immediately benefit from them.”

At the recommendation of its Community Advisory Council’s Trauma Care and Violence Prevention work group, UChicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative awarded the first group of rapid-cycle violence recovery grants in June 2017. Recipients used the grants to build the capacity of their summer violence prevention programs, including funding more counselors, new equipment and expanding their programs expansion to include more participants.

The 2018 rapid-cycle grant awardees are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that operate or deliver services within the 12-zip code area that defines the UChicago Medicine service area. The awardees are:

Alliance of the SouthEast (ASE), which helps African-American and Latino youth develop a voice in the community, engage them in positive activities and unite them around anti-violence initiatives. ASE’s work this summer will include conducting leadership training, facilitating peer mediation sessions and promoting restorative justice practices to create dialogue and conflict resolution.

Centers for New Horizons, which offers a summer employment program that places local youth in entry-level jobs in such places as hospitals, summer camps, non-profits, schools, parks, retail and food services establishments. Plans for grant funding include enhancing their program with a fitness program, Peace Circles and cognitive behavior therapy services to address the effects of trauma.

Chicago Eco House, which operates the Woodlawn Flower Farm Social Enterprise Project, has turned four blighted and vacant lots in West Woodlawn into a year-round income-generating flower farm business. The group’s plans for summer 2018 include working with local youth to build a hoop house and shed, install solar panels and develop a rainwater irrigation system.

Crushers Club, which is a repeat rapid-cycle grant recipient that uses the sport of boxing as well as music to develop bonds among at-risk young African-American men, encouraging education and discouraging gang participation.

Girls Like Me Project, which works to mentor and empower pre-teen and teen African-American girls to overcome the effects of violence in order to thrive in their communities. The organization is hosting a six-week summer program using digital storytelling as a tool of connectivity and leadership.

Sacred Ground Ministries, which provides mentoring services and life skills for at-risk youth in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. The group’s summer programming will focus on cultural enrichment, career exploration and conflict resolution skill-building.

Woodlawn Re-Entry Project, which helps young adults transition from juvenile detention facilities back into the community. The group focuses on re-enrolling young people into school and providing educational enrichment in safe community spaces during after-school hours.

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