May 26, 2015
Local teens were just arriving at the South Chicago YMCA for their weekly activities with the Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative this past December when a man shot in the legs staggered into the building. None of the teens were involved in the drive-by shooting that injured the 23-year-old man, but the shock of witnessing such incidents can create cycles of violence.
“There’s a saying that ‘hurt people, hurt people,’” explains Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, AB’04, a codirector of the YSVP program. “If you can help somebody process the trauma of violence, then you’ve changed their future.”
Driven by the belief that “healing is prevention,” Lugalia-Hollon and codirector Eddie Bocanegra, a master’s student in the School of Social Service Administration, have helped transform the way the Chicago Y addresses youth violence. When they took the helm as the first permanent directors of the newly created YSVP program in 2013, they recruited kids from juvenile justice programs, housing projects, and schools on the South and West Sides, targeting kids on probation or involved in gangs. The students learn how to talk about their trauma through initiatives such as the Story Squad and to address conflict in peace and healing circles. They receive guidance from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in the Urban Warriors mentoring program.
“We do this work because we believe there’s an untapped resource in underprivileged youth,” Bocanegra says. “The trajectory of these kids is being changed right in front of us. They’re now thinking about college, about MBAs, about becoming journalists.”
Read the full article in The University of Chicago Magazine