Over 100 Hispanic Families Held March 7th Press Conference to Protest Gov. Quinn’s Plan to Eliminate Community Youth Services
Proposed Budget Cut Would Force 300 youth programs, prevention services and community-based groups throughout Illinois to Shut Down Immediately —Over 70,000 Youth and 30,000 families to be Affected as Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and After School Programs .
Press Featured Hispanic Families from 7 Metro Chicago Hispanic Groups Facing Shutdown include: Casa Aztlan, Cicero Area Project, DuPage County Area Project, La Causa Community Committee, Latino Organization of the Southwest (LOS), North Suburban Area Project and Sembrando El Futuro (SELF).
Restore Community Youth Services Grant Line
for FY2011 and FY2012 NOW!
(Chicago, IL) Over 100 Hispanic families from seven Metro Chicago grass-roots organizations held a press conference on Monday, March 7, at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W 19th St. in Chicago. Their message: Restore Community Youth Services Grant Line for FY2011 and FY2012 NOW! That means restoring the Community Youth Services (Community Services) Grant Line for the balance of FY 2011 (4-month budget: $1,788,060) and restoring Community Youth Services (Community Services) Grant Line for FY 2012 (12-month budget: $5,364,180).
These Hispanic families are among thousands statewide who are protesting Governor Pat Quinn’s budget proposal that would eliminate over 300 youth programs, prevention services and community-based groups that serve over 70,000 teens and adolescents and more than 30,000 in Illinois. The Quinn proposal, which cancels out the Community Youth Services grant line for the rest of FY2011 and for FY2012, would be a death knell for grass-roots organizations affiliated with Chicago Area Project (CAP) and the Illinois Council of Area Projects (ICAP)—organizations working on the front-lines with at-risk youth and their families.
The Hispanic Families’ Press Conference was one of two simultaneous protest actions that are taking place in Chicago on March 7, 2011. An African American Community Rally also place on Monday, March 7, at Chicago Area Project (CDTES), 605 S. Albany, in Chicago. Hundreds of youth, parents and community leaders representing 17 Metro Chicago organizations are expected to participate.
The elimination of the Community Youth Services grant line would drastically reduce or eliminate 55 Chicago Area Project grass roots affiliate organizations and several CAP programs in Metropolitan Chicago including the organizations serving Hispanic youth and their families that participated in the March 7th press conference.
These participates include:
Casa Aztlan (Pilsen, Lower West Side),
Cicero Area Project (Cicero, Berwyn, Melrose Park)
DuPage County Area Project (DuCAP) (including 12 community committees in DuPage and North Western Will Counties)
La Causa Community Committee (South Chicago)
Latino Organization of the Southwest (LOS) (West Lawn, Chicago Lawn, Gage Park, Brighton Park, Summit, Burbank)
North Suburban Area Project (Latino Organization of Evanston (OLE))
Sembrando El Futuro (SELF) (Humboldt Park)
The 17 organizations involved in the African American Community Rally included Alternatives, Inc., Ark of St Sabina, Better Life for Youth, Bishop Shepard Little Memorial Center, Chicago Area Project (CDTES), Englewood Street Alternative Program, Exodus Drum & Bugle, Hegewisch Community Committee, Lawndale Christian Community Center, Major Adams Community Committee, Mid-Austin Steering Committee, Mildred Franks Foundation Scouting Network, South Shore Drill Team, St. Malachy, Wentworth Residents United for Survival, and St. Agatha Family Empowerment (SAFE).
The Hispanic Families’ Press Conference and the African American Community Rally are two of several protest actions undertaken by affected organizations and programs throughout Illinois. Other actions include a letter writing and phone call campaign that is targeting Gov. Quinn and state legislators. A youth-leader created facebook campaign and a petition drive are also in progress. Delegations of concerned community residents are also visiting their state representatives and state senators.
Among the programs on the chopping block in Hispanic communities are crucial after school programs that keep young people off the streets and out of trouble and help them succeed in school. “It is in our after school programs that our children learn to integrate their culture with society and create a future for themselves and their community,” states Carlos Arango, Executive Director of Casa Aztlan. “Closing these programs will devastate not only our youth and their families, but also our entire community.”
Arango acted as Master-of-Ceremonies for the press conference. “We have to do everything possible to not let the governor put this on our backs,”said Arango. “We aren’t going to accept that!”
Other speakers at the press conference included Hector Rios, Executive Director of Latinos of the Southwest (LOS), who talked about the 75-year history of Chicago Area Project (CAP) and Illinois Council of Area Projects (ICAP). Maurice Thompson, a CAP youth worker with Sembrando El Futuro (SELF) in Humboldt Park. Thompson talked about the importance of just one of SELF’s programs, the Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program, which provides positive role models and guidance to youth with incarcerated parents or other family members. Arcadio Delgado, Executive Director of the Cicero Area Project, talked about the important services this newly formed organization is providing to Hispanics in Cicero, Berwyn and Melrose Park. Doris Aguirre, a parent from Cicero Area Project, gave an impassioned plea for saving programs like this that keep children safe and off the streets. Edwardo Mareno, 11, from La Causa Community Committee in South Chicago gave a similar plea from the youth point of view. Irma Chavez, Program Director from La Causa, asked, “Would you rather pay $80,000 per year per child to put a child in jail or less than $6 million to help 70,000 children in Illinois?”
One of the youth in attendance at the press conference to save the Community Youth Services grant line was Edwin Diaz, 15, from Benito Juarez High School, who is fulfilling his Community Service hours by volunteering in Casa Aztlan’s after school program. “It’s a great place,” says Edwin. “This program gets the kids off the streets. They are so happy when I help them with their homework and they get an answer right. I grew up around a bad neighborhood and I didn’t like being on the streets because it made me scared. I’m happy that at Casa Aztan these kids have a safe place to go.”
Myrna Alvarez, After School Director at Casa Aztlan, emphasizes the truth of Edwin’s statements. Alvarez states that participating in after school programs are preventing young people from wasting their time on street corners or getting involved in gangs. “Often the kids in the neighborhood just sit outside their houses and just sit there and sit there,” says Alvarez. “We get them off the streets and into positive activities that show them that there is more in life than fighting or gang banging.” Alvarez points out that these positive activities include the homework assistance program that emphasizes going to college and field trips that take kids to places they’ve never been before and involves them in new experiences. “Some of our kids have never even been to 31st Street Beach and that’s less than two miles from here,” states Alvarez. “In the summer, our kids go to a different beach each week.”
According to Alvarez, there are many success stories at Casa Aztlan. The Anzo family is one of them. Crystal, 19, her twin brother Michael, and her brothers Calvin, 17, and Jonathan, 16, have been participating in Casa Aztlan’s after school program since they were little children. Now, Crystal, a college student at Northeastern University, is giving back by volunteering at Casa Aztlan. Her brother, Michael, is a student at Harold Washington College and her brothers Calvin and Jonathan are succeeding at Benito Juarez High School.
Crystal believes that Casa Aztlan made a big difference in her family’s life. “Casa Aztlan taught us how to be independent. Our parents worked and weren’t able to take us places, so Myrna took us places and showed us a world beyond our neighborhood. It would be horrible if Casa Aztlan closed. Children would be out on the streets instead of being interested in learning and gaining leadership skills.”
The youth in programs supported by Community Youth Services funding are also making their voices heard in letters to Gov. Quinn and their state legislators.
Organizations and programs supported by the Community Youth Services grant line are also teaching non-violence skills that are keeping youth out of trouble and out of jail. “I know the State of Illinois is going through difficult times, but it’s not justified to use this as an excuse to break the backs of the Latino community,” states Hector Rios, Executive Director, of Latino Organization of the Southwest (LOS). “These programs are needed to decrease juvenile delinquency among our kids.”
The importance of decreasing youth violence and juvenile delinquency was underscored in a letter from Oralia Rodriguez, a concerned Cicero parent who wrote to State Rep. Lisa (Elizabeth) Hernandez in support of Cicero Area Project (serving Cicero, Berwyn and Melrose Park) and restoring the Community Youth Services grant line. “I am a mother of three children and reside in Cicero, Illinois,” stated Mrs. Rodriquez. “ The issue of youth violence is one that is very important to me because I want to feel that my children are safe at school, at the park and in our community. Last summer, while my children and I were playing at the park… there was a shooting that I saw with my own eyes. After the initial shock, I realized that the shooter was a child still wearing his Morton gym shorts… Please Mrs. Hernandez, fight for our community, fight for our children, and fight for our children’s safety…”
Organizations and programs supported by the Community Youth Services grant line also serve as a vital link between Hispanic families and the school system. Jimmy Barber, Executive Director of DuPage County Area Project (DuCAP), for example, points out that their affiliates in Romeoville and Carol Stream have become the connecting link between the school districts and Hispanic parents who want to see their children succeed. “These parents, as well as the school districts, are challenged by language, cultural and Internet technology differences,” says Barber. “Without the Community Youth Services funding, this vital connection would be gone and parents will lose an important tool that is helping them get their education-related needs known.”
And parents like Fortino Leon from North Suburban Area Project (NSAP), serving Evanston, are also concerned about the loss of summer programs. “Our parents are concerned about their kids being unattended and getting into trouble over the long hot summer,” states NSAP Executive Director Glen Hilton.
There is also plenty of evidence that eliminating the Community Youth Services grant line will end up costing Illinois taxpayers several million dollars as un-served high-risk youth end up in the expensive juvenile justice system.
“These programs, which cost taxpayers less than $500/youth/year, focus on juvenile delinquency prevention,” states CAP Executive Director David E. Whittaker. “The cost of keeping youth in juvenile detention is estimated to be up to $80,000/youth/year. If the CAP and ICAP programs close down, many of the at-risk youth we serve are in great danger of ending up in the juvenile justice system. The cost to the State of Illinois would be enormous. If only one percent or 700 of these youth go into juvenile detention, it would cost Illinois $56 million per year—almost 10 times more than the entire Community Youth Services grant line. And that’s just the beginning. Research shows that youth in juvenile detention often become the adult criminals of tomorrow. The question that needs to be asked is, ‘Do you want to pay a little bit now in prevention or pay a whole lot later for incarceration. The message is clear: Restore the Community Youth Services grant line for FY2011and FY2012 NOW!”
For more than 70 years, the Area Project model, which is funded by the Community Youth Services grant line, has demonstrated effectiveness in producing positive outcomes for youth and their families and strengthening civic engagement in communities throughout Illinois. There are 55 organizations employing the Area Project model in high-risk neighborhoods in Chicago (see list below) and 232 organizations using the Area Project model working in communities of need throughout Illinois. The Area Projects are the only statewide program focused on the development of organizations created and led by local community residents. These organizations address systemic and community factors influencing youth crime and violence, thereby enhancing youth protective factors with community.
“The youth of Illinois are the future of Illinois,” emphasizes Whittaker. “Governor Quinn and the State Legislature needs to immediately restore the Community Youth Services grant line for F2011 and FY2012. Without appropriate funding levels these programs will close, jeopardizing the safety, security, well-being—and future—of youth throughout the State of Illinois.”
There are a number of ways you can support our efforts or donate.