Newswise — With Chicago homicides and shootings at their highest levels in five years, community organizations on the South Side are working to provide safe spaces and programs where neighborhood youth and young adults can learn, lead, be active and express their creativity. Some of these programs also provide direct violence intervention, while others offer support to those who have experienced violence-related trauma.

Southland RISE (Resilience Initiative to Strengthen and Empower) has awarded $150,000 to 15 of these grassroots organizations for summer 2021 programs – a 50% increase over last year’s awards. These programs are centered on such activities as reading, education enrichment, training in conflict resolution, digital storytelling, community building, mentoring, music instruction, sports and more.

One of the 15 grant awardees is Englewood-based Public Equity. With the grant funding, the group is planning to engage rival neighborhood sects in peace talks while cooking and sharing meals virtually.

“In many places, summertime is the most anticipated time of the year, when folks look forward to gathering with friends and family and enjoying being outside. Unfortunately, for Black folks living in communities like Englewood, summertime represents heightened violence and loss for many,” said Tony Woods, Executive Director for Public Equity. “As a trusted voice in the community, we have an opportunity to affect positive change by offering safe spaces for everyone to engage in authentic and honest dialogue. We all know cooking and sharing meals have the power to bring down a person’s defenses, which allows us to move toward strengthening community resilience.”

Southland RISE is a collaborative launched in 2019 by Advocate Health Care and UChicago Medicine. The two medical systems are working with community partners to strengthen and integrate existing violence recovery and trauma care services throughout the South Side and across the south suburbs. The collaborative was inspired by Chicago HEAL — Hospital Engagement, Action and Leadership — an initiative launched by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin to address the effects of violence in the Chicago area. 

“Gun violence and the resulting trauma to people and communities is a public health crisis that requires community-based solutions to effectively address,” said Brenda Battle, RN, BSN, MBA, Senior Vice President for Community Health Transformation and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for UChicago Medicine. “We are grateful to be able to support more organizations with increased funding to help them provide constructive programming for youth and young adults while strengthening the resilience of their communities.”

Last year, because of COVID-19, many of the grant awardees’ programs were exclusively virtual. This year, with the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, all 15 programs will offer an in-person component, with seven operating completely in person and eight offering hybrid programming.

“Southland RISE is committed to being a part of a comprehensive solution to address the increased violence that plagues the communities that we serve,” said Kelly Guglielmi, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Advocate Christ Medical Center. “By investing in local intervention and prevention programs, we can break the cycle of violence that impacts families who live in the Southland. Throughout the past few years, we have seen firsthand how the Southland RISE summer grants have made a tremendous impact on participants in these intervention and prevention programs, which is why we increased the amount of grant funding this year. We look forward to seeing how this year’s recipients continue to make a positive impact in the community.”

The 2021 Southland RISE grant recipients are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that operate or deliver services within the areas served by UChicago Medicine and Advocate Health Care. Here is the full list of recipients:

  • Alliance of the SouthEast (ASE)/ ASE Youth Leadership Council (YLC):Alliance of the Southeast (ASE) provides leadership training to African American and Latino youth (ages 12 to 19) to give them a voice in the community, engage them in positive activities and unite them around anti-violence initiatives. As part of the summer program, the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) equips participants with the skills to increase their civic engagement, take ownership of their communities and proactively create solutions to address neighborhood issues. 
  • Centers for New Horizons: The mission of Bronzeville-based Centers for New Horizons is “to develop the capacities of individuals and families to become self-reliant, to improve the quality of their lives, and to participate in rebuilding their community.” Centers’ summer program places justice-involved youth in summer jobs, as well as provides vaccination education throughout the community.
  • Chicago Survivors: The Chicago Survivors Youth Program provides clinical and therapeutic support to Chicago youth and their caregivers who have lost a family member due to homicide. In partnership with DePaul University and its Education and Counseling Center, Chicago Survivors is hosting “The Power of Storytelling” Summer Program – a six-week hybrid experience – to address the complex trauma and grief of survivor families affected by homicide.
  • Fearless Leading by the Youth: Fearless Leading by the Youth (F.L.Y.) strives to empower youth and millennials to be community organizers and leaders. Funding from the Southland RISE grant supports F.L.Y.’s Healing and Building program in the Woodlawn community, connecting residents affected by trauma with counseling services, trauma-informed care, social-emotional learning workshops, anger management workshops and more. The group is also converting empty lots into gardens and gathering spaces.
  • Girls Like Me Project: The Girls Like Me Project’s (GLMP) mission is to help urban African American girls, ages 11 to 16, overcome stigmas and negative stereotypes to become influential, independent digital storytellers. The summer program – Soul Power Healing Summer – focuses on digital storytelling as a tool of connectivity and leadership. Twenty participants are being trained as digital storytellers to document life for Black girls after COVID-19.
  • Grand Boulevard Prevention Services: Grand Boulevard Prevention Services (GBPS) works to prevent underage drinking, substance abuse and violence among youth. With the Southland RISE grant, GBPS is hosting community events that promote messages and activities around preventing violence and substance abuse.
  • Guitars Over Guns: Guitars Over Guns Organization supports Haven Studios in Chicago’s Oakland neighborhood, an incubator for intensive music instruction and mentoring. The community-based recording studio operates at no cost to underserved youth, ages 14 to 21, from vulnerable South Side communities who seek a supportive community and tailored mentoring through the arts. Workshops cover cinematography, music licensing, mental health group therapy and more. The summer program will culminate with a community-based performance on August 28.
  • Institute for Nonviolence ChicagoServing the neighborhoods of Austin, West Garfield Park and Back of the Yards, the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago promotes nonviolence through a combination of street outreach, victim advocacy, case management, workforce development and community organizing activities. For the summer program, the group is deploying a team of eight street outreach workers in the Back of the Yards neighborhood to engage within the community, respond to shootings and conduct conflict mediations to prevent violence.
  • Kids Off the Block: Kids Off The Block’s mission is to provide at-risk low-income youth with positive alternatives to gangs, drugs, truancy, violence and the juvenile justice system. The group is hosting hundreds of students from the Chicago Metro area in its Summer Basketball League, which it has conducted since 2013. The goals are to keep youth safe and involve them in activities such as group mentoring sessions, skill training and basketball.
  • Ladies of Virtue:The mission of Ladies of Virtue is to instill purpose, passion and perseverance in girls ages 9 to 18, while preparing them for college, careers and to become agents of change in their communities. The Southland RISE grant is helping the group provide mental health counseling to 50 South Side girls, along with workshops for parents that focus on trauma-informed care, adolescent mental health, social-emotional development in young people and more. The summer program also provides training in conflict resolution and restorative justice. 
  • Lost Boyz Inc: Lost Boyz’s mission is to decrease violence, improve social and emotional conditions, and provide financial opportunities for the youth in Chicago’s South Shore community. The Southland RISE grant is supporting the Successful Youth Leaders (SYL) program, which uses baseball to build trauma resilience and enhance development and leadership skills. 
  • Public Equity: Over eight weeks throughout the summer, Public Equity is hosting virtual community meals to cultivate community resilience and foster violence education in Englewood. Through the program, 10 males from warring sects are being invited to engage in peace talks while cooking and sharing meals. Public Equity is providing meal kits and gift cards to the participants’ homes.
  • Titus One Youth Anti-Violence & Mentoring Program: The mission of the St. Titus One Youth Anti-Violence & Mentoring Program is to provide a positive, safe, educationally enriching environment for youth to achieve their life’s potential. The summer program offers Late Night Youth Nights, artistic expression competitions and basketball tournaments, and will culminate in a No Crime Day-Chicago event on August 7
  • What About the Children Here (W.A.T.C.H): The mission of W.A.T.C.H. is to create a learning platform for youth building self-worth, character and passion to live successfully. The summer’s One Block, One Porch, One Book Program encourages youth participants to read up to seven books during the seven weeks of the program, and measures resulting self-esteem and well-being.
  • Woodlawn Community Re-Entry Project Chicago (West Suburban Neighborhood Development Corporation): The Woodlawn Community Re-Entry Project Chicago (WCRPC) promotes the educational well-being of school-age populations isolated outside the public education mainstream, specifically, those who come into contact with juvenile/adult justice systems. The summer program continues the organization’s work to increase post-release school re-enrollment, deliver education enrichment in safe community spaces and use street outreach to reduce gun violence arrests and charges.



About Advocate Christ Medical Center

Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., is a 788-bed premier teaching institution with more than 1,500 affiliated physicians. Advocate Christ is a leader in health care and one of the major referral hospitals in the Midwest in a number of specialties, including cancer care, cardiovascular services, heart, kidney and lung transplantation, neurosciences, orthopedics and women’s health. The hospital also has one of the busiest Level I trauma centers in Illinois providing emergency care for more than 105,000 patient visits annually and is a leader in breakthrough technologies, including eICU® (electronic intensive care unit) monitoring, and the robotic da Vinci Surgery System®. Advocate Christ ranked fourth overall among hospitals in the state of Illinois and the Chicago Metro area according to U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals 2018-2019” list. The hospital is also recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) as a Magnet Center. Magnet status represents the highest honor in the nursing profession. Advocate Christ is part of Advocate Aurora Health, the 10th largest not-for-profit, integrated health system in the United States. We help people live well.

 About the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences

The University of Chicago Medicine, with a history dating back to 1927, is one of the nation’s leading academic health systems. It unites the missions of the University of Chicago Medical Center, Pritzker School of Medicine and the Biological Sciences Division. Twelve Nobel Prize winners in physiology or medicine have been affiliated with the University of Chicago Medicine. Its main Hyde Park campus is home to the Center for Care and Discovery, Bernard Mitchell Hospital, Comer Children’s Hospital and the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine. It also has ambulatory facilities in Orland Park, South Loop and River East as well as affiliations and partnerships that create a regional network of care. UChicago Medicine offers a full range of specialty-care services for adults and children through more than 40 institutes and centers including an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Together with Harvey-based Ingalls Memorial, UChicago Medicine has 1,296 licensed beds, nearly 1,300 attending physicians, over 2,800 nurses and about 970 residents and fellows.

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