Youth at picnic table
May 12, 2022

Investing in Safer Communities

The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative (YSVP) operates on one driving principle: healing is prevention.

Through trauma-informed care and positive youth development, our YSVP programs strive to end cycles of violence that adversely affect far too many young people’s lives. By creating safe spaces for Chicago-area teens to build community and process their lived experiences with trusted peers and mentors, we’re investing in a safer, more equitable Chicagoland for future generations.

Urban Warriors, our longest-running YSVP program, pairs military veterans with youth exposed to violence in some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Together, these two groups engage in meaningful, intergenerational dialogue about how to survive in hostile environments and channel their strengths toward positive change in their communities.

Mayte Gonzalez, a recent alumna of YSVP’s Urban Warriors program at the Rauner Family YMCA, shared the following remarks in a speech during her program graduation ceremony in June: "I met new people and built relationships. I’m pretty sure if I wouldn’t have been doing this, I would have been doing other things, you know, going down the wrong path. Now I know that I don’t need to face my problems alone."

And Urban Warriors is just one of the Y’s many programs focusing on violence prevention. From Story Squad, which utilizes podcasting and audio production as outlets for social-emotional learning, to Safe Humane Chicago’s Lifetime Bonds Program, which strengthens teens’ leadership skills as they help train rescue dogs, our YSVP program fosters community-wide resiliency through healing, restorative activities.