If you want to know what you can do to help reduce violence in the city over the summer, pay close attention.
Last week, teams of Chicago teens pitched solutions to an audience made up of heads of nonprofits, elected officials and private corporations who gathered at the Museum of Science & Industry.
The event, called the “Youth Shout Out,” was the culmination of a six-week collaboration between 20 youths from neighborhoods impacted by high crime and gravitytank, a local consultancy firm.
The solutions, which included providing safe rides, micro jobs, and creating teen-friendly spaces in the community, were right on target.
In fact, the lack of safe transportation is hindering one successful South Side youth program.
Lost Boyz Inc. is a nonprofit organization that uses boys’ baseball and girls’ softball to engage youth in positive activities.
The organization has six baseball teams that play in the Rosemoor Little League. Rosemoor is one of the teams affected by the Jackie Robinson West scandal. After Little League International stripped JRW of the national title, the league split the South Side leagues between two districts.
Although there wasn’t any major blowback from the change, one problem has been persistent.
“As youth age increased, parent participation decreases,” said LaVonte Stewart, Executive Director of Lost Boyz Inc.
“When [players] are 4 years old up until 10-years-old, the parents are very proactively involved. They provide rides, pay their fees, participate in the social media and whatever,” he said.
“Once the kids are around 11, 12 or older, that tapers off. [Parents] typically don’t drive, don’t pay their fees, don’t contribute in other ways like sending snacks and water that kids will need.
Because of the lack of parental participation, the teams have had to forfeit games.
“We know a lot of parents we serve don’t have vehicles because part of the demographics that we target are low income,” Stewart added.
He sent out about 200 letters two years ago to local car dealerships requesting a donation of a 15-passenger van. He didn’t get any responses.
The impact of forfeiting games goes beyond money.
“Missing games cost us our reputation, and damages our relationship with leagues outside of our community,” he said.
“If we could acquire our own van, that would be great. But even if one of these school bus companies could donate a working bus that has been taken out of service or if we could acquire 10-15 volunteers whose sole purpose is just to transport kids to and from the games and other activities, that would be a help,” he said.
Ralph Peterson, president of Rosemoor Little League, also noted there is a lack of parental involvement when it comes to older kids.
“Some of the parents have never come out to meet the coaches. They let their kids go to the park and sometimes we are not going to get back till the evening,” he said.
Before you wrinkle up your nose and say that’s their problem, please consider this— regardless of where you live, we are all in this together.
Sometimes those of us who know better have to stand in the gap for those who do not.
To borrow a phrase from the youngsters who pitched solutions at the Museum of Science & Industry last week.
Are you in?