Thursday, December 16, 2010

Map Gallery: Chicago Violence, A Focus On Englewood

2010 Englewood Homicides. Mapping For Solutions.

"Children are killing each other and there is an overall sense of doom and despair…We have the power to use our fearlessness and our strength to literally transform the hood - one block, one child, one family at a time." - Che "Rhymefest" Smith, Grammy Award-winning rapper, Aldermanic Candidate for Chicago's 20th Ward

(Part 7 of T/MC's 2010 "Mapping Solutions" online gallery)

My most recent blog in this series of maps featured an overview of Chicago’s 2010 homicides, and discussed just how significantly poverty and school performance factor into predicting a community’s risk for crime.

I then looked at empirical evidence that shows how students that are enrolled in mentoring programs do better in school, are less likely to do drugs, and are less violent than students with similar positive aspirations but no mentors.

I was discussing this with a colleague (volunteer Tech Club leader for Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program, Anne T. Griffin) and the discussion reminded her of an article she had read in last week’s Wall Street Journal, called Mentors Give Hope to At-Risk Students.

The article reports the dramatic success story of a high school located in the notoriously impoverished and crime-riddled Englewood community of Chicago, focusing on the school's incorporation of mentoring into its curriculum.

Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men employs full-time mentors, who “serve as confidants, counselors and parental figures to the boys, many of whom come from broken homes in gang-ravaged neighborhoods.” Four years ago, the article tells us, 80% of the 150 incoming freshman read at a sixth-grade level or below. Four years later, 107 of those 150 young men graduated this year, with all accepted to four-year colleges.

(Feel free to click on the map above to get a sense of Englewood’s violence, poverty, many less-successful schools, and noticably-lacking mentor resources (we know of only one non-profit program available to the Englewood students who aren't enrolled at Urban Prep). Note that Urban Prep is not on this particular map since schools on this map are “poorly-performing.” If you are interested, it is located next to the highway on 62nd street, just north of Reed Elementary, the “poorly-performing” elementary school on the map that appears to be split by the "Green Line," near the "63rd Red Line" stop).

So here we have a case that seems to fit the discussion from yesterday’s blog. Against a backdrop of high poverty, many poorly-performing students, and the violence that is predictable under these conditions, we have a program where young men are succeeding against the odds and on their way to college, due in large part to the guidance of one-to-one adult mentoring.

With stories like this, it would make sense at some point that more policy makers might prioritize mentoring as part of their education platform, in an effort to improve our general safety, our nation’s dropout crisis, and the cost of poverty to taxpayers of all backgrounds everywhere.

Conveniently for me (since I just happen to have included maps of Chicago's City Council at the map gallery last month too), “Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men” and Englewood happen to be on the western fringe of Chicago’s 20th ward, where incumbent alderman Willie B. Cochran will be challenged in this winter’s elections by grammy-award winning rapper turned politician, Rhymefest, a Washington Park native who has supported Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program in the past, and who notes in his campaign that residents "deserve representation that not only helps local government work for its residents, but that actively educates residents on all services available to them.”

Looking at our maps, I wonder if an alderman with Rhymefest's visibility, energy, and power of communication might take the lead in building new mentoring services for the at-risk youth in his 20th ward (a ward that, clicking on the map to the left, reveals only one program that we at Tutor/Mentor Connection know about... that's one known program serving thousands of children who are at-risk for crime, academic failure, and continued poverty).

At the very minimum, I am hopeful that our political leaders take the lessons from a case study like Urban Prep seriously, and make a real effort to launch new research and new programs.

If they ever need a map or strategies, I might know an organization that can help!

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We at Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) have spent the past several years using maps to identify and analyze areas of our city where support for at-risk youth needs to grow, in order to make our students brighter, our workforce stronger, and our streets safer.

We operate on a non-profit budget and rely on donations and charity to continue our work, using state-of-the-art GIS technologies in support of our community-based mission.

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1 comment:

Bradley Troast said...

Che called me in October to let me in on his candidacy a few weeks before he announced it. He said he was looking to bring programs like Cabrini Connections to the 20th Ward and that he would like to meet with T/MC. We have spoke a couple times since then, but I have not yet been able to set up a meeting. He is very busy, as expected, but I would like to think that he is genuinely interested in learning from us and potentially working with us. I will check in with his camp to see what's up.