YMCA to recognize veteran mentors and graduates of the Urban Warriors program

December 08, 2016

On Saturday, December 10, the YMCA of Metro Chicago will hold a recognition ceremony for graduates of its Urban Warriors youth mentoring program. The 46 youth are being recognized for completing a 16-week structured curriculum in partnership with military veterans who have served as their mentors throughout the process.

The recognition ceremony will take place at The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (SSA) from 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Urban Warriors was launched in 2014 as a program of the YMCA's Youth Safety and Violence Prevention (YSVP) initiative. More than 150 youth have been served by the program, which has captured national attention for its pairing of post-9/11 military veterans with youth exposed to high levels of trauma. This cohort is the first to include young women and female veterans.

Xavier McElrath-Bey, senior advisor and national advocate of the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth, will be the keynote speaker. McElrath-Bey, who grew up in Back of the Yards and was incarcerated as a young adolescent for a gang-related murder, has gained renown advocating for youth around incarceration issues since his release in 2002. Speakers will also include Senator Dick Durbin; YSVP Executive Director Eddie Bocanegra; and SSA’s Deborah Gorman-Smith, the Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor & Deputy Dean for Research & Faculty Development, who is leading a multi-year study funded by the MacArthur Foundation to study the program’s effectiveness. An outstanding veteran mentor will be recognized with the Larry Melvin Alumni Award and an outstanding alumni youth will be recognized with the Abner Garcia Alumni Award.

Urban Warriors is generously supported by Allstate Insurance Company, the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, the Boeing Company, BMO Harris Bank, Chicago Bulls Charities, the Leo S. Guthman Fund, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Nurmi Family Foundation, Michael Reese Health Trust, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.