Campaign Hopes To Cut Down Chicago’s Youth Joblessness By 10,000 | WBEZ
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Campaign Hopes To Cut Down Chicago’s Youth Joblessness By 10,000

A new initiative launched Tuesday hopes to curb the number of unemployed youth in Chicago who are not in school.

Across the city, there are numerous organizations working to chip away at youth joblessness, which is often mentioned as an underlying factor in the city’s rising gun violence.

Thrive Chicago, a nonprofit that has the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, announced its 10,000 Reconnected campaign on Tuesday.

The plan aims to bring those organizations together, starting with 30 partners, including Chicago Beyond, a foundation focused on education and safety run by Liz Dozier, the former principal of Fenger High School in the Roseland community.  

Dozier joined WBEZ host Melba Lara to talk more about how Thrive Chicago and its partners plan to make a dent in the number of “opportunity youth” in Chicago.

On Thrive Chicago’s estimates that there are 60,000 people between the ages of 16 and 24 in Chicago who are unemployed and not in school

It’s literally physically more people than you can fit inside Wrigley Field. It’s an astounding number of young people, most of whom have a high school diploma. If you think about access to talent and access to moving the city forward, those young people embody that.

On what’s driving Chicago’s current spike in violence

I just feel like the chickens have come home to roost. You can only have so much disinvestment in communities, you can only have so many schools that are failing -- there’s only so much of that any one community can take before essentially the water’s not just hot, it begins to boil. Until we start to get through some of the systemic root issues, we’ll continue to see it boil. I do believe that what Thrive is doing gets at one of those.

On how preliminary working groups informed how the 10,000 Reconnected campaign partners will work

What came out of the working groups is the significance of all of the barriers our young people face, everything from trauma to homelessness. We’ve been taking into account those barriers and actually trying to bring in different providers and people who are addressing that so ultimately young people have a pathway forward that’s realistic. You can’t expect someone to go from homelessness and trauma directly into a job. You have to remove those barriers and you have to sort of stair-step someone to that pathway to a job.

On the psychological value of employment

It’s not just a job in terms of bringing home a paycheck -- although that’s good, it gives someone a sense of self-worth and purpose -- but it also brings a sense of hope to a person’s life.

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