Chicago teens do have places to go this summer
Here’s a simple call-to-action for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and others: Ask a child or teen what they are doing once school lets out, then help them apply to one of the city’s many programs.
By Mary Ellen Caron, Mimi LeClair, Mary Ann Mahon-Huels
As we head into summer, Chicago teenagers are once again getting a bad rap and paying a huge price for it. It happens each year as the weather heats up and the school year winds down: some local youth, without productive outlets, get together and make headlines.
The large gatherings downtown — like the one that, tragically, led to one teen being shot and killed in Millennium Park, allegedly by another teen — are not acceptable. And unfortunately, they aren’t surprising either.
While this was happening before the pandemic, the situation is worse now with added risk factors.
Just like the rest of us, teens want to get out of the house. Just like us, they need social connection. Add in a growing youth mental health crisis, with anxiety, depression, and suicide rates all on the rise — plus increased financial and food insecurity in families due to the pandemic — and it’s hard to be hopeful that this will be a peaceful summer for Chicago youth.
As long-time Chicago journalist Justin Kaufmann recently wrote in his column, “Chicago continues to tell teenagers where they can’t go. Maybe it’s time to tell them where they can.”
Bingo. This is where we all can help.
Our organizations have, combined, more than 150 years operating after school and summer programs for kids and teens in Chicago. Time and time again, we’ve seen how with a little support — whether it’s one program, one caring mentor, or simply a helping hand — young people open up, see their self-worth, and then thrive.