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Intervention program provides Chicago youth with alternatives to gang violence

By Deysi Cuevas
Extra News

Chicago’s recent surge in youth violence and homicide has gained international media attention. According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago’s homicide rate in 2012 is 26.7 percent higher than last year through the end of July.

The Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development, known as BUILD, works in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods and provides at-risk youth with alternatives to gang activity and violence.

Since 1969, BUILD has helped more than 90,000 young people strengthen their commitment to education with their programs. BUILD helps communities by providing atrisk youth with the life skills, training and resources they need to emerge as leaders in their communities.

Some of their programs include prevention, where specialists implement gang prevention curriculum in the classroom, equip youth to resist violence, drugs and gangs, and to develop life goals and effective decision making. In their intervention program, intervention specialists engage at-risk youth in BUILD’s violence remediation curriculum. The program also provides a community reintegration curriculum to youth detained at Cook County Juvenile Temporary
Detention Center, giving youth a chance to enroll in school among other positive activities upon their release.

“[The program] is very successful because I started through the Juvenile Detention Center,” said Miguel Rodriguez, art teacher and youth council advisor at BUILD, who was arrested for graffiti writing. Rodriguez states that BUILD’s intervention program took what he was already good at – graffiti art – and showed him how to focus that energy in a positive way.

“They invited me out to skateboard competitions so I could have graffiti shows there. I participated in their art and photography workshops and I was featured in galleries… so I got to sell some of my art,” said Rodriguez.

“We do a lot of one-on-one with individuals, building a relationship with them, getting them to understand that there is another positive way of going about things and then kind of rebuilding them on what they want to do based on their assets, such as Miguel with his art gift,” said Guillermo Gutierrez, intervention program coordinator.

Although BUILD’s intervention program has been successful in many ways, Chicago’s ongoing violence has made it hard for the organization to reach out to more at-risk youth, especially with the surge in homicide over the recent months and with no clear answer as to what contributes to all the violence. Christopher Hervey, intervention specialist, states that the violence has a lot to do with the youth programs that have been cut due to lack of funds…

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