One Chicago alderman says a program that gives kids jobs over the summer is helping to keep them away from gangs. Raymond Lopez, alderman of the city’s 15th ward, said one of the One Summer Chicago programs was able to employ about 20 kids from Back of the Yards and Englewood to clean up and improve their neighborhoods.
Lopez gathered with a group of young people involved with the project in Back of the Yards this week to unveil a two block stretch of mural painted as part of the neighborhood improvement initiative. He said the effort is helping reverse the negative narrative often associated with certain areas in the city.
“We’re here to celebrate what will hopefully be years of tradition of having positive impact every summer and every season in Back of the Yards thanks to the help of our city and our youth trying to make a difference in the community,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the theme of the mural project is that change “starts with love and ends with love.” The phrase is emblazoned across the block on one of the two murals.
“It’s heartwarming to see little children come up to you and say thank you for making our neighborhood look better,” said Michael Ford, a youth participant in the project. “It’s the little stuff like that that is heartwarming to me and makes me feel like I’m making a difference.”
Lopez said the program was funded in part by a grant from the McCormick Foundation and support from the city’s One Summer Chicago program, which sets kids up with summer jobs while school is out.
Although the One Summer Chicago program wrapped up this week, Lopez said he hopes to see similar projects take off in other neighborhoods where young people face the stigma of gang activity and violent crime.
Max Green reports for the WBEZ news desk. Follow him @maxraphaelgreen.