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Youth call for jobs program to curb violence

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While young people at loose ends roam Chicago’s streets, some of them causing trouble, elected officials continue to do little about crisis-level youth unemployment.

Nearly 100 Chicago area youth calling for funding for a summer jobs program were turned away today after they announced plans for a 24-hour sit-in at the Thompson Center to demand an emergency meeting with Governor Quinn.

State Police said they wouldn’t be allowed to spend the night at the state building, and youth leaders decided to deliver their letter to the governor and adjourn to plan further action, said J. Brian Malone, a youth organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization [2].

Last year, a similar action [3] by a citywide coalition of community youth groups had somewhat better luck.  They won a meeting with the governor’s office, and Governor Quinn agreed to sign a summer youth jobs bill [4].

Since then, however, despite repeated assurances, no funds have been appropriated for the program, Malone said.

KOCO and other groups have been working together on the issue for several years, and “early on, young people made a direct correlation between community violence and the lack of structured activities.,” said Malone.  “If young people can make the connection, why can’t the governor and the legislature?”

Funding for youth employment has steadily dried up – and violence has fairly steadily increased – since the 1990s.  Today youth unemployment is at record levels [5]; a 2008 study found three-fourths of Chicago youth unemployed [6], including an astonishing 85 percent of black youth. (More here [7].)

“Youth development and youth employment is just not a priority,” said Malone.  “There’s no interest in our young people.”

And from Roseland to the Magnificent Mile, we’re reaping what we sow.