South Side community-based violence prevention summer programs awarded $150,000 by Southland RISE

UChicago Medicine aerial photo of Hyde Park campus

For the sixth year, Southland RISE (Resilience Initiative to Strengthen and Empower) is awarding funding to South Side and south suburban community organizations for their summer programs.

Southland RISE, a collaborative between the trauma recovery programs of the University of Chicago Medicine and Advocate Health Care, is providing $150,000 of funding to 19 programs that will reach as many as 8,500 community members with opportunities to participate in activities like acting and basketball, while also using mentoring to foster leadership skills, resilience, conflict resolution education, and more.

To date, the Southland RISE Community Violence Prevention Grant Program has awarded $800,000 to more than 60 organizations offering a wide range of programs and activities to community members that support violence prevention and trauma resilience for youth and families on Chicago’s South Side.

“Community programs like the ones supported by Southland RISE are vital to helping young people learn and thrive in safe spaces,” said Brenda Battle, RN, BSN, MBA, UChicago Medicine’s Senior Vice President for Community Health Transformation and Chief Equity Officer. “UChicago Medicine is committed to supporting grassroots organizations that foster violence prevention and focus on the health of entire communities.”

The 2024 grant recipients will serve community members across 37 Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs and 18 zip codes, primarily on the city’s South Side.

“Southland RISE and Advocate Health Care are thrilled and honored to partner with these organizations to continue our mission to curb violence and heal trauma throughout the South Side and surrounding area,” said Kim Miiller, PsyD, Advocate Health’s director of trauma recovery centers. “These organizations aim to reach young people and foster knowledge and healing through a variety of summer programs. Community organizations like these are essential to ending the cycle of violence.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s Chicago HEAL Initiative (Hospital Engagement, Action and Leadership), which encourages Chicagoland’s healthcare providers to help reduce community violence and address healthcare needs associated with violence recovery, inspired the formation of Southland RISE in 2019. Earlier this month, UChicago Medicine joined with Senator Durbin in the unveiling of the five-year report of the Chicago HEAL Initiative.

UChicago Medicine’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessment identifies trauma resiliency as a top community health priority for Chicago’s South Side and is a key focus for the medical center’s Violence Recovery Program (VRP). According to its recently published Community Benefit Report, in fiscal 2023, the VRP engaged 1,805 patients, including serving 157 children and 890 families.

Advocate Health Care’s community strategy addresses the key needs around violence mitigation and prevention. The system’s interventions acknowledge that socioeconomic and environmental conditions where people live, work, play and grow have a direct impact on a wide range of wellness and quality of life outcomes. Advocate Health Care continues to expand the reach and integration of its Trauma Recovery Center services with an eye toward social inequities. In 2023, the TRC served nearly 2,200 patients living in diverse communities aiding them in the healing of trauma while also awarding more than $925,000 in assistance to fulfil housing, food, and other needs.

The Southland RISE grant awardees are all 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations operating within the service areas of Advocate Health Care and UChicago Medicine. Here are the 2024 Southland RISE grant recipients and summaries of their summer programs:

Annie B. Jones Civic Arts Center

The Annie B. Jones Civic Arts Center’s Aspirational Justice program will conduct trauma-informed theater workshops and rehearsals for 35 community members ages 14 and up, culminating in a public performance for approximately 300 youth and adults in August. An extended, broader audience will be reached upon release of the filmed production.

Centers for New Horizons, Inc

The Centers for New Horizons SHIFT (Strengthening, Healing, Individuals for Tomorrow) program provides employment, career development, support services like academic assistance and counseling, and collaboration with employers and community organizations. They plan to serve 110 youth, primarily African Americans ages 16-24 of all genders. Participants will engage in a 13-week, paid, work-based learning opportunity.

Chicago Defender Charities

Chicago Defender Charities is launching a Young and Gifted Master Class tailored for aspiring filmmakers and journalists driven by a passion for community and civic engagement. Through the program, up to 40 participants ages 14-21 will engage in interactive workshops, hands-on film-making and creative writing exercises, mentorship sessions, and collaborative projects.

Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices

The Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices “Street Law Revolution” workshop is designed to provide youth and emerging adults between the ages of 13 and 26 with the tools and knowledge needed to safely navigate an encounter with law enforcement while building community cohesion and resilience. They aim to enroll between 160 and 200 individuals in the workshop.

Faithful Few

Faithful Few’s Ambassadors of Peace program will serve 50 to 60 youth, with a focus on female youth, providing classes that revolve around basketball as an analogy for life. The program will offer an open conversation on conflict resolution, as well as time in the gym to develop leadership skills. The organization aims to help individuals build the necessary skills to enable them to become confident, self-reliant adults.

Focus Fairies Mentoring, NFP

The BEE (Becoming Emotionally Empowered) Girls program through Focus Fairies Mentoring uses workshops, discussions, and educational materials to equip girls and women with the knowledge and skills to recognize and address violence in their communities. Activities may include role-playing scenarios, guest speakers sharing personal experiences and resources on conflict resolution and self-defense. They aim to reach about 40 students.

Heal Thy Life Center

Through its Fit for Motherhood program, the Heal Thy Life Center offers interactive nutrition workshops, food distribution events, cooking demonstrations, and peer support groups, with the goal of improving the lives of women and girls through education and increased access to resources. They aim to reach approximately 1,000 individuals and ensure that 75 families per week have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious food options.

I Am A Gentleman, Inc.

I Am A Gentleman, Inc.’s sports-based summer camp program aims to engage young men in organized sports as a vehicle to promote participants’ healthy growth and development of interpersonal skills, while steering them away from risky behaviors and exposure to violence. The program will serve 35 predominantly African American males, ages 13 to 19 years old.

Jackson Park Golf Association

The Jackson Park Golf Association’s Caddy FORE Hire Program (CFHP) offers local youth from predominantly underrepresented and underserved communities opportunities to work as caddies at public golf courses. Participants not only gain work experience and earn a stipend, but also begin earning credits toward the Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation (WGAESF) scholarship. The scholarship covers tuition and housing for four years at one of 24 universities across the United States. The proposed target population is 25 to 30 children ages 13 to 18.

Ladies of Virtue

Ladies of Virtue’s “Power to the Professional Summer Bootcamp (P2P)” will serve 50 girls in a one-week career readiness camp inclusive of mentoring, mental health supports, and leadership development. It is offered as a 1-week camp in June for girls who cannot engage in its typically 9-month program format. The camp prepares participants for their paid summer internship, which begins the week following the program.

Lil’ Scholars

The Lil’ Scholars program promotes reading and math literacy for under-resourced urban Chicago youth. The summer enrichment program expects to enroll 30 youth entering 1st-4th grade and uses individual assessments to tailor curriculum to the needs of each student. In addition to reading and math literacy, the program offers basic education on how to swim, along with other sporting activities and field excursions.

Meadows Eastside Community Resource Organization

The Meadows Eastside Community Resource Organization aims to reach 25 youth through “Light up the Night: A Community Safety Plan.” Those involved will identify vulnerable neighborhood blocks, install porch lights, conduct first aid certification, and form a Junior Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to mobilize youth in emergency preparedness and response efforts.

MedCEEP (Medical Careers Exposure Emergency Preparedness Initiative)

MedCEEP’s Summer TRAP (Trauma Recovery & Prevention of) violence workshops aim to educate South Side Chicago youth on trauma coping skills and evidence-based approaches to managing conflict. Over nine workshops, as many as 360 students ages 12 to 19 will participate in tailored programming in community settings such as summer sports leagues, churches, and community fairs.

Sunshine Gospel Ministries

Sunshine Gospel Ministries’ summer program is called Building Resilience: Summer Summits for Youth and Families. The program includes a youth and family resource fair that will provide resources, mentorship, and job opportunities, along with a mental health referral program and employment program. The fair aims to reach 100 youth and 50 parents, and Sunshine hopes to impact 20 families at its Family Summit, particularly those affected by grief and gunshot wounds within the community.

The ACE Project

The ACE (Active Children Excel) Project’s “Summer Swing” begins with a community playday in July that will welcome over 150 kids onto the tennis court for physical exercise, pro-social skill building, and other positive youth development activities. The Summer Smash is made possible by partnerships with the park district, school district, and local childcare centers. Following the event, ACE will kick-off its free, 8-week youth and adult tennis camps at Riverdale Park District.

The Neighborhood Network Alliance

The Neighborhood Network Alliance (The NNA) is a community engagement group that connects, convenes, and collaborates block-by-block with residents, nonprofits, and institutions in the South Shore community. The NNA’s Walk, Talk and Roll is a violence prevention and intervention project that uses community engagement and leadership development to facilitate a broader community collaboration with a vision of a safer neighborhood. The target audience is seniors, youth of all ages, community-based organizations, law enforcement and other area stakeholders.

Touch Gift Foundation

The Touch Gift Foundation’s Lov'N the Streetz program encompasses a series of community-focused events and workshops aimed at fostering intergenerational bonding, supporting youth development, and empowering individuals within the community. The summer program includes a resource distribution event, a leadership development workshop, an employee opportunities seminar, a skills-building workshop, and a back-to-school event aimed to reach thousands of participants.

What’s Your Forté Foundation

The What’s Your Forté Foundation’s “Matt Forté Career Camp” hosts top industry professionals and companies at its headquarters’ conference center to connect rising leaders with employment opportunities. The program seeks out participants who may not have traditional skills sets or lengthy resumes and the camp establishes a sustainable model for empowerment for 80 youth and 50 adults.

Woodlawn Restorative Justice Hub

The Woodlawn Restorative Justice Hub’s Young Leaders for Peace program provides comprehensive support for youth affected by violence. Two cohorts go through six weeks of intensive programming focused on economic employment, civic engagement, cultural learning, mental health, and restorative justice practices. They enroll primarily African American participants ages 14 to 24.