Generations For Peace USA has launched the “Youth LEAD: Youth Learning, Exchanging and Developing through Sport for Peace” Program in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The nine-month Program aims to prevent violence and strengthen protective factors among Black youth in the area who are disproportionately impacted by violent crime, marginalization, and systemic disinvestment. GFP is implementing Youth LEAD in partnership with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, the Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC) at the Comer Education Campus, and the CHAMPS Male Mentoring Program (CHAMPS).
Since 2019, Generations For Peace USA has partnered with GCYC and Laureus USA to implement sport-based protection programs with youth in the United States. From 2019-2020, they implemented the Youth SOAR pilot Program in Greater Grand Crossing, followed by the Youth INTERACTS Program from 2021-2022 on Chicago’s South Side and in Urbana-Champaign.
The Youth Inter- and Intra- Group Action Against Community Tensions Through Sport (Youth INTERACTS) Program, funded by Laureus and the Generation Amazing Foundation (GA), and in partnership with GCYC and The New American Welcome Center (NAWC) at the University YMCA, launched in 2021 to foster interpersonal connection between ethnically diverse youth in Illinois through Sport For Peace and Life Skills activities. The Program’s unique component of mixing different identity groups from Chicago and Urbana-Champaign to reduce community tensions and foster trust and acceptance between them benefitted 120 youth in the area and 280 indirect beneficiaries in their communities. Through carefully facilitated sport-based activities, Youth INTERACTS successfully promoted peer bonds, teamwork, and trust and fostered inclusion and positive social interactions across ethnic, cultural, and physical divides.
In this new third phase, from October 2022 to June 2023, the Youth LEAD Program will utilize sport to address and alleviate the systemic issues facing Black youth in America through the capacity building of GCYC staff and youth leaders.
The Greater Grand Crossing area of Chicago faces one of the United States’ highest levels of violent crime. Most of this crime affects teens and young adults of color and from marginalized communities. The impacts of COVID-19, economic deterioration, social distrust, racism, and segregation have also contributed to the rising levels of violence in the area. Youth LEAD will help Chicago’s resilient youth strengthen their skills and abilities to mitigate and prevent violence through targeted efforts to enhance protective factors for youth through capacity building of youth leaders and GCYC staff.
By transferring GFP’s Sport For Peace curriculum to GCYC staff and youth members, the Program will create access to safe spaces, build positive relationships, and develop transferrable life skills and competencies among at least 200 youth through capacity development and youth-led Sport For Peace activities.
Key Program activities include training, mentoring, and supporting: 1) 20 youth leaders to design and implement Sport For Peace community engagement sessions with 200 peers; and 2) 25 Gary Comer Youth Center staff and partners in implementing Sport For Peace approaches in their daily activities at the center. Youth LEAD will also include a virtual outreach webinar for Laureus grantees and other community centers across Illinois to share the lessons learnt and best practices from the last three years of programming using Sport For Peace approaches at the Gary Comer Youth Center.
This Program is part of a state-wide initiative by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and Laureus USA to support 41 organizations throughout Illinois that intentionally use sport as a vehicle for youth development and violence prevention.
Commenting on the Program activities, Rhonda Hopps, Executive Director of the Comer Education Campus, said, “Perfectly aligned with our core value of Youth Power, Sport For Peace provides invaluable skill-building, mentorship, and activity-driven learning opportunities for our members that engage, equip, and empower them to make a positive impact in our community. We are proud to collaborate on this important initiative to help reduce violence and promote peace through sport together.”
Vondale E. Singleton, Founder and CEO of CHAMPS Male Mentoring Program, adds, “We are excited to engage our mentees in an enriching experience of Education, Empowerment, and Exposure. Violence intervention and prevention is at the heartbeat of what we do, and what centers us are partnerships like with Generations For Peace.”
Lindsay McClain Opiyo, Executive Director of Generations For Peace USA, reflects, “This Program builds upon our three years of programming with the Gary Comer Youth Center and Laureus USA. It takes a systems-based approach, expanding the impact of Sport For Peace across the youth center, reaching more young people than ever, and putting youth in the driving seat of violence prevention and positive change. We are grateful for the continued goodwill of the partners, youth leaders, and broader community to partner with Generations For Peace USA on Sport For Peace programs in Chicago.”
In commenting on the role of organizations included in the cohort of grantees, Ben Schornack, Laureus USA’s Director of Sport for Good Chicago said, “Community sports organizations have served as interrupters of violence, providers of safety and security, and beacons of unity and inclusion throughout Illinois for decades. This funding recognizes and expands the important role that those organizations play in addressing the complex issues of public safety and violence.”