Brighton Park residents will gather at Kelly Park on Tuesday for a candlelight vigil memoralizing 26 deaths in Newtown, Connecticut and 27 people shot in Brighton Park last year – and call for gun control legislation and restoration of funding for youth services there.
Joined by local elected officials, they’ll gather at Kelly Park, 2725 W. 41st, at 3 p.m., Tuesday; in case of inclement weather they’ll hold a brief press conference there and gather inside Kelly High School across the street.
Last year funding for two state anti-violence programs was cut in half; in Brighton Park that meant the loss of five full-time school-based counselors serving Kelly High and seven elementary schools, said Sara Reschly of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council .
Along with individual counseling, the counselors ran anger management and life skills workshops, and when BPNC surveyed teachers on the results, the vast majority reported a significiant decrease in classroom behavior issues and increased class participation and homework completion, Reschly said.
At a community rally last summer , several young people testified about how youth programming had helped them turn their lives around.
State funding was maintained for parent engagement and youth employment programs, but they operate only in the summer, leaving no state resource for anti-violence work in the neighborhood through the school year, she said. “With 27 people shot last year, that’s a problem,” she said.
“The focus right now is on gun legislation and that’s important, but we need youth services too,” Reschly said. “Seriously addressing violence has to be a community effort and it has to involve positive opportunities for young people.”
Community members continue to press the park district for renovation of Kelly Park, Reschly said. “We were very disappointed that Kelly Park didn’t get any of the NATO legacy funding” handed out by Mayor Emanuel in recent months, she said.
Brighton Park is the most “park-poor” area in the city, she said. “Given the fact that we don’t have a lot of green space, it’s even more important to maintain existing facilities, so youth and familes can benefit from them.”