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CRED offers a lifeline to young black men

Michael Reed, 22, got a job as a laborer through CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny), an organization that prepares young men for the workforce. | Supplied Photo

An organization, co-founded by former U.S. Education Secretary and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan, aims to end violence by preparing young men, including ex-offenders, from divested communities for entry-level jobs.

Creating Real Economic Destiny (CRED) was created by Emerson Collective — an organization founded and run by Laurene Powell Jobs and Duncan as a managing partner. CRED “targets men identified as being at the highest risk of being shooters or being shot. Using street-level recruitment efforts, participants are placed in cohorts of approximately 30 men.”

Michael Reed learned about CRED through word of mouth in the Morgan Park neighborhood.

“I heard there was something really special going on and that I should check it out. They said that guys who were affected by gangs and poverty would have a chance to be accepted and we joined the program,” the 22-year-old said. “They worked with us. They gave us life coaching. They monitored how we would adapt to a working situation and placed us with employers.”

The men in the program are paid minimum wage with incentivized opportunities to earn more over time. They are offered transitional jobs working in areas such as interior home demolition, conservation and city beautification. The goal is to provide the real-life experience of private-sector employment.

Once the young men acquire the skills needed, they are placed with employers who guide them through what it takes to stay in the workforce.

Reed, now a laborer for construction company F.H. Paschen, is assisting with the CTA 95th Street Terminal Improvement Project.

“I like being a part of the change, and making things better for the city. This is the momentum I need to keep pushing,” Reed said. “If I can do it, the next person can get their opportunity.”

David Binion, a superintendent with F.H. Paschen, noticed Reed’s upbeat attitude.

“When Michael came in, I saw his excitement. He was excited to be working. A lot of the kids who came from their program [CRED] were making money illegally,” Binion said. Michael was excited to make money in positive way. He has a lot of hope and positive energy for his future.”

Binion believes that’s the first start when entering the workforce.

“The main thing is to consistently get up and go to work everyday. They learning responsibility, independence and something to live for,” Binion said, adding “Something positive. Many of them come from an unstable environment. Pulling them out of an unstable environment, and to have to a stable environment is something they’ve never had before. That’s one of the biggest benefits of the program. They some sort of independence. That’s something to look forward to.”

Since Reed has been working on revamping the 95th street “L” stop, he’s been able to hone his skills as a laborer, and save money.

“The program was a great experience. It was a one of a kind experience. I’ve never been a part of anything like this in terms of a program that upgrades you, develops you,” he said. “People would choose to work if they had more opportunities. I chose to work, and it benefitted my life.”

He credits his mother for his positive disposition and determination.

“Some people say they won’t bring anything to the neighborhood because they don’t believe in the neighborhood. I’m motivated so people can see where I came from,” Reed said. “I came from a single parent household. My mom wanted better for me. She kept me upbeat.”

In the coming weeks, CRED will work with the Chicago White Sox to build a “Peace Park” playground in Pullman.