Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nine people shot in Austin on Sunday, but what's the rest of the story?

Yesterday I showed readers how to use our Interactive Program Locator and how to find the different maps in our Map Gallery. One of the criteria that you can use to search for types of maps, is by searching "Rest of the Story" maps, which takes stories in the news profiling poverty and violence and then maps the location profiled in the story, and where the tutoring and mentoring programs are in the area, in addition to schools, churches, businesses, and percentages of those living in poverty.

One of the recent stories we have profiled is Mary Mitchell's column in yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times, about how the Austin neighborhood in Chicago is number one for weapons-related crime and homicides. This article was written in the wake of nine people being shot in Austin last Sunday, including a nine-year-old girl and a fourteen-year-old boy.

Dan Bassill profiles the churches and businesses that are in Austin, that can collaborate with the tutoring and mentoring programs to make the neighborhood a safer place for kids. In this blog, however, let's take a closer look at the tutoring and mentoring programs in the Austin neighborhood.

According to the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, if you searched by "Chicago Community Area" and then under "Austin," you will see that there are 9 programs in the Austin Neighborhood. Almost half of these are Chicago Park District Homework Help Programs at Amundsen, Austin Town Hall, Columbus, Columbus, La Follette.

Circle Urban Ministries, was a program I visited at the end of June and I profiled that visit in this blog here. They actually have a variety programs that help the Austin Community be a better place and they're a great example of how a program that started in a church, has expanded and now offers everything from their wonderful mentoring program to a legal aid site to a free clinic.

Cluster Tutoring is another program that I am quite familiar with, since its director, Kathryn McCabe has sat on a variety of panels at past Tutor/Mentor Conferences. Cluster Tutoring is a great example of how a more affluent community, Oak Park, saw a need in a neighboring community, Austin, and created a tutoring program where residents of Oak Park and Riverside come to Austin to tutor students. As their website says "Cluster addresses the academic and social needs of the students and their families while providing an opportunity for members of the Oak Park/River Forest/Austin community to become involved in an important one-on-one volunteer mission."

Westside Holistic Family Services
also offers a variety of programs to the Austin Community, including an after-school Teen REACH program. According to their website, "The mission of the Teen REACH Program is to expand the range of positive life choices and opportunities that can enable, empower and encourage youth to make those choices. It serves as a positive alternative for the children and youth from low-income and single-parent households during afterschool hours."

World Vision, is an international program, but their Chicago Office is in Austin. They run a program called the Youth Empowerment Project, which does community-based mentoring. Their website states that "World Vision’s youth development staff and other mentors creatively engage the talent, passion, energy, and unique gifts that young people bring to our world. Participants learn to identify issues that are important to them and their peers, and develop a presentation to share their concerns with congressional leaders."

Finally, theres the Austin YMCA, which has offered tutoring and mentoring in the past, but does not list tutoring and mentoring as a program that they run currently.

While there are many wonderful programs in Austin such as those listed above, the need is simply too great and there needs to be more support for these programs and more programs created to serve all the youth that live in Austin. Austin is the largest Chicago community area in terms of population and there are lot of youths who need a program to serve them.

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