The Butterfly Effect: The power of one, right here in Chicago.
Each week it seems that Chicago is in the news. According to the New York Times, murder rates increased by 58 percentfrom 2015 to 2016 in Chicago, and there have been 3,500 shootings in the city last year. These figures are more than the criminal homicides in New York and Los Angeles combined, though the population of New York City, alone, is three times as high as that of Chicago. The surge in violence has become a national flash point, and the saddest part of the story is that many of the victims are Chicago's children and youth.
As women who are deeply committed to our communities, we can't help but feel heartbroken by these statistics.
Yet, there is hope. Like every child, teens in Chicago have plans: plans of success and of making their own special mark on our world.But for those at risk, their plans come with added obstacles they must navigate to get through an average day. Even finding a part-time job can be a challenge. In fact, according to the 2015 study, Frayed Connection: Joblessness Among Teens in Chicago*, just 13 percent of teens aged 16 to 19 held jobs between 2011 and 2013. During that same period, 26.6 percent of teens were employed nationally.
Still, they dream. And their best hope of achieving this dream is by finding their voice. Being heard and accepted is the most fundamental of human needs, and it is a gateway to true empowerment.
Every small action and every young voice matters, now more than ever.
Many of Chicago's youth have experienced trauma living in these challenged neighborhoods where life is uncertain, homes are often unstable and even going to school can be dangerous. By sharing their story— be it through words, dance, music, art or theatre —many committed organizations are helping them to process those experiences and find their voice. Through these innovative and effective approaches, the children begin to gain confidence and are able to make smarter life choices.
WomenOnCall partners with several of these nonprofits – organizations that are dedicated to providing a channel by which students can process these experiences in order to grow and thrive. Each organization is committed to the belief that it is our collective duty to give these teens a soft landing, a way forward and, most of all, a nurturing sense that someone has their back.
Here are a few nonprofit partners that help Chicago's youth along their journey. By logging in and searching for their projects, you can help support their efforts today.
- The Simple Good is a Chicago-based organization that works with at-risk youth to connect their definition of "good" to those from around the world. This nonprofit uses both art and discussion to empower students AND help them transform into positive activists within their own communities.
- Erasing the Distance collects true stories from families whose lives have been impacted by mental health issue and transforms their actual words into monologues and scenes. An ensemble of professional actors brings the stories to life and then the audience participates in a moderated discussion to explore the themes.
- I AM WE inspires children, empowers minds and promotes community engagement in underserved neighborhoods throughout the greater Chicago area via the medium of storytelling, art programming, advocacy and strategic partnerships.
- Storycatchers Theatre is a nationally-recognized youth development arts organization that encourages underserved youth in the criminal justice system to make thoughtful life choices through writing, producing and performing shows based on their personal experiences.
Be a part of the solution at this year's Meet & Match event, February 8th, 2017.
in exploring short-term, specific ways that each of us can better the Chicago community.
This year's Meet & Match focuses on two key issues affecting Chicago's gun violence rates over the past year:
- Abject poverty among Chicago's children and youth: More than 20,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools were homeless in the 2014/15 school year, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. This impacts the structure and routine needed to keep focus and learn, leading to the most vulnerable students facing higher rates of out-of-school suspensions.
- Lack of educational opportunities: While new CPS data indicates that overall graduation numbers are on the rise, the gender breakout shows that girls have a graduation rate of nearly 81%, while the graduation rate for boys is closer to 66 percent. Breaking that down by ethnic groups, African-American students have an overall graduation rate of 67 percent while rates for Hispanic and non-Hispanic students are in the 70th and 80th percentile, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Here are simple 3 ways to do a little good:
- Sign in and sign on to WomenOnCall and help make a difference with one of our many nonprofits that are dedicated to helping Chicago yough to find their voice.
- Join Moms Demand Action or visit EveryTown to find out more about events to benefit the issue of gun violence across the nation and in our area.
- Go the extra mile and offer to provide support via tutoring or mentorship to a vulnerable CPS student and keep them on track to meet their goals.