With the vision that empowered, confident girls will become independent women who can support themselves, their families, and their communities, GirlForward mentors and supports adolescent refugee girls in Chicago. Individual mentorship and educational programs—such as Camp GirlForward, a summer program that includes English, math, and computer-skills instruction—help foster confidence among participating girls and provide them with a supportive community.
Will Allen has worn many hats in his lifetime. The son of a sharecropper, he founded his urban farming foundation Growing Power in 1993 after a brief career in professional basketball, going on to earn a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and a spot on Time magazine's Top 100 of 2010 list. From Milwaukee to Chicago, his city farms thrive, tended by a volunteer team of all ages who gain the all-too-uncommon satisfaction of knowing the "who, when, where, and how" of their vegetables’ origins. Besides providing the seeds, tools, and educational resources to green the thumbs of any willing student, the farms also foster community bonds by filling the pantries of select local restaurants and locavore squirrels.
In 2011, the documentary film The Interrupters introduced audiences to three Chicagoans whose job it was to walk the streets of their neighborhoods mediating violent disputes. The mediators in the film were working with CeaseFire, Chicago's Cure Violence program, to work with other Violence Interrupters to mediate 700 potentially lethal conflicts in Chicago. This often meant physically standing in between feuding individuals, putting their own lives at risk to make their communities safer. In addition to its work in Chicago, Cure Violence operates programs in seven other cities in Illinois and 14 cities across the United States. In 2011, the documentary film The Interrupters introduced audiences to three Chicagoans whose job it was to walk the streets of their neighborhoods mediating violent disputes. This often meant physically standing in between feuding individuals, putting their own lives at risk to make their communities safer.
Cure Violence's founder, Dr. Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist who approaches violence as an infectious disease that should be treated like any other epidemic—with scientifically proven methods. The organization applies the same techniques associated with disease control—detection, intervention, and changing behavior—to alter a community's perspective of violence and stop the problem at its source.
Within violence-plagued neighborhoods, the organization's Violence Interrupters—often former drug dealers, gang members, and violence perpetrators—detect and mediate potentially lethal conflicts. Outreach Workers, meanwhile, work with high-risk individuals to change the way they think about violence and help them work within the system to improve their lives. On a larger scale, Cure Violence shifts the discourse on violence within whole communities and society at large, emphasizing solutions to the problem instead of punishment.
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CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Cook County helps protect and advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in court cases. Through its well-trained volunteer advocates, CASA ensures that each child's voice is present in court, with the hope of securing safe, permanent homes where children can grow and thrive. Each advocate champions one child, researching the case and providing valuable information to the court so judges can make the best decisions about the child's future. Advocates work with the child for as long as necessary, which can last from a few months to a few years, but is typically about a year. In the last year, CASA volunteer advocates invested 12,000 hours of advocacy to 483 children in Cook County.
The Teen Center is a fresh, new program that offers students a semistructured setting in which to engage the arts, establish new friendships, and bolster a stronger school community. Supporters have secured a dedicated space, time, and a staff person for the endeavor, but budget constraints prevent purchasing the resources and equipment necessary to strengthen the program. Among its needs are visual art supplies and music materials, technological resources, and resources for community-building activities.
While working at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration in the 1970s, Bernice Weissbourd founded Family Focus to provide holistic social services to children and their families. Today, it continues to support students, teenage parents, and families with young children with a variety of programs, including adult-literacy classes, fitness and nutrition education, and homework help. Family Focus works with parents to help children grow into confident and successful young adults and assists youth in achieving their academic and career goals through projects such as afterschool programs.