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Imagine Englewood If: Kids Summer Camp

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Kids in Englewood have so many bad influences and images staring them in their faces as they wake up each morning. Those images are sometimes block after block of " DO NOT CROSS" police tape from an incident earlier in the day or the bad memories from the scene of a crime that happened weeks ago but still visible. Debris blowing in the wind, broken glass strewn across vacant lots, or the preying influences of street corner youth offering a different image, a different path, a different kind of life.But imagine…a new influence...an image of play, laughter, sharing, friendship, and most importantly...how each kid can grow up and make positive change in their lives, in their communities, in their futures.......if they are given the chance and the opportunity.That is the attraction, the vibe, and the goal of Imagine Englewood If located 750 W. 69th offers the kids this summer.

Imagine Englewood If...... "Kids on The Move" summer camp for kids ages 7-12, under the guidance of Executive Director Geri Harston, is one of the places this summer that can truly prove to non-believers that there is hope for Englewood. As a reporter for the Youth Media Project assigned by the Monroe Foundation to engage and write a narrative of the change that is taking place through the programs of groups supported by the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, I visited a group of children who can possibly change the way people look at the Southwest side of Chicago.

The Summer Camp provides both outdoor and indoor activities: competitive sports including track and tennis at Hamilton Park, 72nd-Normal; and a daily indoor cultural program to encourage mental growth.Paving the way to greatness each kid has a different way of expressing their values and creativity. They think higher than most kids their age and are far more intrinsically advanced. I love the way they learn in different ways through art and spoken word. I spoke to some of the children as one kid told me," I live with my mom and we both like it here, there is so much to do" while another kid told me, "The one part I like is rapping". Each kid had a different perspective but they were all a part of something that gives kids a different light on Chicago. Imagine Englewood If...... is helping inspire children to do more than simply play but to embrace other ways of life..............enabling them to believe more than "if"/Infusing their young minds with inquiring games like chess and huge puzzles, that encourages analytical abilities and problem-solving strategies to taking them around Chicago to learn and become educated and about other communities, people and cultures. I admire what this organization is doing and how it encourages kids to explore other possibilities because it is truly different from anything you have ever seen. 


This is a story about the Promote Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

Ruth Johnson is a reporter for the Youth Media Project assigned by the Monroe Foundation.

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Live in the Spirit - Drum Circle for Peace

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The rhythmic beat of African drums reverberated throughout Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72 ndStreet on Saturday, August 26th; and local youth were in the spotlight at a pulse-pounding "Drum Circle for Peace" program presented as part of this summer's Safest Summer 2017 Initiative "Praise in the Park."

The musical extravaganza was part of a Back-to-School program that encouraged youth to "look to the future and stay positive in your focus as you return to classes this fall."

Coordinating the "drums for peace" festivities was noted drummer Ernest Dawkins, Executive Director of the Safest Summer Initiative. Dawkins explained that this is the second year of the Drum Circle, which encourages local residents, particularly youth, to join his fellow drummers "and is designed to help negative influences facing our young people and show them a positive direction through music."

In complete agreement with Mr. Dawkins is Perry Gunn, Executive Director of Teamwork Englewood, who explains that the summer musical fests are held at several community parks throughout the summer, and that this August 26th event was held in conjunction with Residents Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.), under the leadership of executive director Asiaha Butler, as part of her "So Fresh Saturday Tour" in local parks.Ms. Butler points out that "These park events are very positive and much-needed for our youth. Our parks should be used for family-fun events like this...this is what summer is all about!"

In addition to the drumbeats, youngsters enjoyed free food and school supplies, the popular Jumoping Jack, and were entertained by rap music by local performers, offering inspirational messages of "Stay in School" and "Don't let anyone turn you away from your positive goals."Megan Hougard, Chicago Public School chief of Schools Networks, echoed the "stay in school" message offered to the youngsters.

Information booths from community organizations including Imagine Englewood If..., Chicago Children's Choir, and LaTanya Johnson and Youth of Englewood, among others.

Debra Thompson, President ofSouthwest Federation Block Clubs of Greater Englewood had an informational literature table, and was quick to note that youngsters were "very happy with all this entertainment, Back-to-School Suppplies and food, and at the same time receiving messages for a safe, peaceful community here in Englewood."

Even local artists were encouraging the young people to remain positive about themselves and their futures.

The talented sketch artist "Justflow" stated that he had been part of the Drum Circle for the past two years, "and I think it's a great thing for the kids to experience." 

This is a story about the Promote Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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Everyone who cares deeply about Chicago’s future can play a role.

If you are an employer, you can hire young people at risk. If you are a community leader, you can help improve police-community relations. If you are a health care provider, you can support trauma-informed care to gun violence victims. If you are a funder, you can support any one of these efforts. Whatever you do, your voice matters when you speak up in support of policies that can make our neighborhoods safer. Reach out to learn more.

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