Chicago, IL (April 25, 2019) -- Last week, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) sat down with a small group of past participants in Choose to Change (C2C), a program that has shown promise in helping to reduce crime in Chicago.
C2C began in 2015, combining Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc.’s intensive neighborhood-based Advocate mentorship and Children’s Home & Aid’s trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy with the University of Chicago Crime Lab’s rigorous evaluation. Preliminary data point to dramatic decreases in arrests.
The program has served approximately 500 youth, aged 13 to 18, living in Chicago’s Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods. C2C, which will soon expand to serve communities on Chicago’s West side, provides motivation and direction on long-term goal setting, builds healthy decision-making habits, and helps youth navigate high-stakes encounters.
The 18-22-year-olds speaking to Sen. Durbin were among the program’s first participants. They talked about their lives before, during and after their participation in C2C. In particular, the young people shared their experiences developing trusting relationships with their Advocates, building skills to address trauma in their lives, and establishing new decision-making habits to become positive forces in their communities. One mentor, sitting next to a past participant, spoke proudly of watching her evolution, saying she eventually became a peer mentor to other girls at her school.
Past participants also shared their future plans. Among them were an aspiring hip-hop artist, a college student studying nursing, a young woman who is working towards becoming a phlebotomist, and a young man interested in becoming a police officer with the Chicago Police Department. Senator Durbin listened, asked questions and provided information about resources that might be helpful tools for the young people to access as they pursue their goals.
Sen. Durbin has been a proponent of new approaches to making communities safer and reforming justice systems, including enacting new legislation to increase access to trauma-informed support services, launching the Chicago HEAL initiative hospital collaborative to reduce violence and address health disparities, and helping pass landmark criminal justice reform legislation to reduce recidivism and promote safe communities.
C2C program funders have included Get IN Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Sports Alliance, the McCormick Foundation, City of Chicago, and Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation.