The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation has been a proud supporter of BUILD Chicago since 2015. BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development) is a comprehensive youth services organization that engages young people where they are – in schools, the courts, or the streets – providing the mentoring and support they need to persist through the systemic obstacles around them. Founded in 1969 on Chicago’s West Side, BUILD has always focused on the hardest-to-reach youth – youth facing violence, mental health trauma, imbalanced policing, disinvested schools, and countless other intersectional challenges. By building trust and creating safe spaces, BUILD helps young people heal, develop resilience, discover talents, engage with school and work, realize their potential, and achieve positive futures. “BUILD is honestly about teaching you how to make your dreams happen,” says Cortez Dean, a former BUILD youth himself, who now works as a full-time mentor.
Each of BUILD’s programs addresses a different set of needs, and is designed to be combined with others as each youth requires. The Intervention program helps gang- and justice- involved youths step away from violence through intensive mentoring, violence interruption, resources, school re-engagement and gang detachment. Prevention focuses on younger, elementary and middle-school aged youths in schools, helping them avoid violence and gang involvement by fostering the skills, attitudes, and habits of success. Enrichment provides a variety of creative activities from art and music to sports and gardening, helping youths discover their creativity, positively express themselves, explore new talents, and gain leadership and work experience. Education/BUILDing Futures helps youth prepare for post-secondary education, teaching skills to succeed in school and prepare for college and careers. The Clinical and Community Wellness team wraps mental health care around all other services, providing therapy, on-call crisis response, case management, and court advocacy to youth and families impacted by community violence and trauma. Through all these programs, BUILD connects with over 5,000 youth and family members each year.
It’s a lot of services, but as any BUILD mentor will tell you, the common thread is making young people feel safe and cared for. “We make sure that kids don’t just feel like they’re part of just a program,” says Jeremy Mercado, an Intervention Specialist in middle schools. “It’s a family, it’s a brother and sisterhood.”
Potential doesn’t discriminate – only opportunity does, and BUILD believes that, with the care they need and deserve, every young person has potential to bloom into something beautiful and strong. “I feel loved when I come to BUILD,” says 15-year old Lanita. And that’s the most powerful service of all.
To learn more about BUILD Chicago, please visit their website.