Local Chicago teacher helps teens combat youth violence through interactive initiative

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by Deysi Cuevas
Extra

CHICAGO — Antwan McHenry has worked at Chicago Public Schools for the last 10 years. During his time at West Park Academy as an office assistant for eight years and a substitute teacher for two, he lost four students to homicide. He felt the violence was getting out of hand.

“There was a time last school year when a lot of people were getting killed in our area – the police kind of took over our neighborhood for about three nights,” said McHenry.

Growing worried over the increasing violence that was descending upon the neighborhood, McHenry wanted to do something more than hold prayer vigils. More than anything, he wanted something that would get kids involved, allowing them to talk about the issues within the community because this is a problem that affects them.

U Can Turn It Around is an initiative founded by McHenry, who wanted a way to get the dialog started.

“I think violence is prevalent in our community. A lot of my students are kind of desensitized so when you hear about somebody getting shot and killed, it’s an everyday thing. So first, we get them talking about it, about how they feel and what they think we can do to decrease some of the violence,” said McHenry.

Currently in its beginning stages, the initiative challenges teens to become involved in combating youth violence through the following interactive methods: video blogs where people are encouraged to create a three to five minute video addressing youth violence in their community and try to offer solutions to help combat it. Photography and visual artists can create drawings or take pictures that illustrate how violence has affected their communities. Local musicians and spoken word artists are encouraged to address violence through their music …

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