Q&A with Eva Giglio, CME Group Foundation Executive Director, and Jadine Chou, Chief Safety & Security Officer, Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) recently launched a pioneering effort to reengage youth who are disconnected from school. As part of the initiative, Urban Labs conducted research which shows that an overwhelming majority of shooting victims have one thing in common: they are not currently enrolled in school.

To learn more about this partnership and what it aims to accomplish, CME Group Foundation’s Executive Director, Eva Giglio, spoke with CPS’ Chief Safety & Security Officer, Jadine Chou.

At CPS, we partnered with the University of Chicago Urban Labs to understand what the research is telling us about gun violence victims in Chicago. The research from Urban Labs found that 10% of all of the city’s shooting victims in Chicago are under the age of 18.

Jadine Chou
Chief Safety & Security Officer, Chicago Public Schools

Eva: Jadine, this new program is a first-of-its-kind not only in CPS, but across the country. It is intended to help reengage youth in school who have been disengaged and unenrolled from school for 18 months or longer. Tell me more about why you are starting this program and why now.

Jadine: At CPS, we partnered with the University of Chicago Urban Labs to understand what the research is telling us about gun violence victims in Chicago. The research from Urban Labs found that 10% of all of the city’s shooting victims in Chicago are under the age of 18. While this shows that the majority of shooting victims in Chicago are over the age of 18, this means that there are still far too many of our young people becoming victims of violence. The other part of their research that I’ll add to this that’s really guided the development of this program is that approximately 94% of youth victims are not enrolled in school at the time of victimization. We believe that this means that school is the best and safest place for youth and that now more than ever, we need to make sure that we are engaging our youth.

Eva: Can you tell us more about the youth who you are trying to reach with this program? How do you define “hard-to-reach youth”?

Jadine: This program is focused on youth who have been out of school basically since the start of the pandemic. They disengaged during remote learning and never reengaged. In fact, they may be completely unenrolled now from school. Some people may argue those youth are no longer the responsibility of the school district as they aren’t enrolled in school, but I completely disagree. What this program says is, “You’re still our kids and we still care about you.” We know that immediate interventions can reduce gun violence among the young people most at risk and that we can achieve positive outcomes without relying on a punitive approach which can exacerbate experiences that are already filled with trauma. We have seen this approach be successful and we are doubling down because the urgency has only become greater coming out of the pandemic.

Eva: A critic may argue that if a student hasn’t been engaged in school for 18 months or longer then they are never coming back. What would you say in response?

Jadine: I wouldn’t be doing this work if I thought that was true. Relationships matter and we cannot and will not give up on our youth. I truly believe that if we build relationships with these youth and provide the right supports, we can bring them back to school. This program is built in partnership with community-based organizations, and it’s resourced by CPS investments and philanthropic contributions –– including CME Group Foundation’s generous support –– to Children First Fund, the Chicago Public Schools foundation. We are focusing on five community areas with a community-based organization in each who will be on the ground helping to support street outreach. We’ve seen efforts like this take place for adults, like Chicago CRED and Heartland Alliance’s READI programs. This program pilots bringing those approaches down to youth under the age of 18. Similar to those programs, we will focus on street outreach, wraparound supports for the youth like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, transitional job training and placement, family supports, and other services before we even begin reengagement in school.

Eva: Jadine, I want to thank you for your work not only on this program but on keeping our students in Chicago safe. This work is inspirational, and the CME Group Foundation is grateful to be a founding partner in this new program.

Jadine: Thank you, Eva. I truly do believe in this work and know it matters. Thank you for the partnership of the CME Group Foundation — this work takes a village of foundations, city leaders, nonprofit agencies, and city agencies to be successful. It also takes trust. We are trying something new that no one in this country has done before, but we have to start thinking differently about how to support our youth coming out of this pandemic and now is the time to do so.

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