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Youth Anti-Violence Program at Risk

A summer employment program for Chicago youths has continued efforts to curb the city's long-standing problem with crime for at-risk teenagers this year, but initiatives like it are now threatened by district budget cuts this fall, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Anti-violence initiatives in the city's public schools have ranged from school day mentoring to innovative after-school programs to summer employment initiatives like the one profiled in the article. It was sponsored by a local youth center and After School Matters, a nonprofit that helps provide out-of-school programs for Chicago teenagers.

I wrote about a few of the efforts here last year and reported that in 2010, 700 children in Chicago were hit by gunfire, 66 of whom died, according to National Public Radio. As I mention, a number of the anti-violence efforts targeting teenagers stemmed from the 2009 murder of a 16-year-old student. See Education Week's take here.

According to the Tribune, a $665 million deficit means the Chicago district will face some significant cuts this school year; several will affect anti-violence programs that have shown to be successful. The Becoming a Man mentoring program, for instance, showed a 44 percent drop in violent-crime arrest rates for participants, according to a University of Chicago study.

Reports say there are at least 15 gangs in the metro area, and violence and shootings have plagued area teenagers for years. Though teenagers are drawn to gangs as a source of protection, gang membership perpetuates the violence.

Michelle Adler Morrison, the chief executive officer of Youth Guidance, which runs the Becoming a Man program, called the reasons for teen violence, "immensely complicated" in the article. Yet, "what they need isn't that complicated. It isn't that expensive. We're just not doing enough of it."

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