Creating Safe and Engaging Spaces for Youth
Freedom Summer 2022 was the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance’s national call to action for individuals, community organizers, and organizations to develop creative ways to keep our children engaged and safe. The three-month initiative aimed to address the uptick in violence experienced by many communities during the summer months.
Freedom Summer 2022 kicked off with a virtual town hall on Thursday, June 23, 2022. The Freedom Summer 2022 Town Hall was The MBK Alliance’s way of assembling and unifying those ready to take action against youth violence. During the town hall, we discussed the impetus, importance, and purpose of Freedom Summer 2022.
In addition, attendees met a panel of young men committed to leading the charge of reducing violence in their communities and will learn more about a model community organization, which consistently and effectively meets the needs of its youth. Watch the full town hall below!
The MBK Alliance knows the efforts of community organizations are often stifled due to limited financial resources. So, as part of our summer-long initiative, we launched the Freedom Summer 2022 Fund. The $1 million grant program was designed to provide communities with tools and resources to create safe spaces for our boys and young men of color. Fifty-one organizations were selected as recipients of grants ranging from $15,000-$25,000. Our hope is that these community grants continue to serve as the seed from which our young boys will grow and evolve into passionate, driven, and successful men.
Pat Mosena, President and founder of Options for Youth founded Options for Youth to address the need for interventions, opportunities and mentoring for vulnerable youth in the city of Chicago. Five years ago, her organization started the “What’s Up with Manhood?” program, an innovative approach to reducing the impact of violence in the lives of adolescent Latino males in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. “What’s Up with Manhood?” helps teenage boys think critically about “what it means to be a man” in their community, and transforms their attitudes and behaviors towards partners and peers. Options for Youth is one of the 51 organizations selected to receive a My Brother’s Keeper’s Alliance Freedom Summer Fund 2022 grant. Here, Pat shares how Options for Youth shifts the lives of the young men who enter their program.
We are a non-profit that works entirely with vulnerable adolescents in Chicago and we have to work very hard to fund our programs. Funding like yours, with no strings attached, that we can use as we need and as our young men need is just very critical to us. The ability to apply funding to programmatic needs as we see fit is rare.
How our programs differ from many other non-profit programs is our long-term commitment we give to each kid. Foundations will try to fund an 8-week or ten-week program. Our kids need long term, one-on-one relationships as well as intense training over time. Most of the young people in our program are with us two or three years. Our next goal is to develop programming to key them in college as long as we keep them in high school!
Young men in our program, especially those living in Little Village, face violence on a daily basis. At school…on the street…often, at home. We are trying very hard to decrease the violence in their daily lives. Particularly, through gender equality and helping them to realize how manhood is defined in their community and how that is related to violence. This is an eye opener to most of these young men because they’ve never thought in these terms and the guys we deal with are living in a community where manhood is defined by machismo, or macho.
We hope the impact is changing attitudes about what it means to be a man. It also has developed a sense of responsibility. We have an outstanding outcome with the program. We started this program five years ago to help the young men deal with violence in their lives. One of the key primary goals of this is to have them stay in high school and graduate. Over the past three years, 100 percent of the teenage boys in our “What’s up Manhood” program have graduated from high school while they’re living in communities where only half of the people graduate. One hundred percent have graduated and 100 percent were accepted to college or trade school.
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