interview by Alexandria Santistevan, John Marshall Law School Intern
Get IN Chicago partners are making incredible strides to reduce youth violence in our communities. To introduce you to the people working in our communities every day, we plan to profile staff members from our CBT and mentoring cohort over the next few weeks. These individuals are currently engaged in capacity building trainings with Get IN Chicago, part of our new initiative to strengthen mentoring and CBT programs and create a rigorous, central intake and case management system for acutely high-risk youth.
Steven Gates and Monique Robbins
Program Director (Steve) and Assistant Director (Monique) at Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.
Work in Roseland and Englewood
Originally from Roseland (Steve) and Beverly/Morgan Park (Monique)
Q. How is your program tied to reducing youth violence?
We just wrapped up a full school year program, and a lot of that work was group work and individual interventions. We also did some family work and we tried to work on the strength perspective. We were primarily responsible for reducing truancy, high misconduct in school, any kind of outside interference that affects students affected by violence.
In the summer months, we did an employment and exposure program with added advocate support. I think the kids enjoy everything but what stood out the most is that we were able to expose them to a horseback riding ranch. Being on a farm and experiencing ranch life is something they had never done before. … Healthy relationships between staff and kids are important…The kids always know they can talk to advocates to resolve conflicts and mediate.
Q. How has working with Get IN Chicago benefited your work?
I’m thrilled at the enthusiasm of the philanthropic people at Get IN Chicago. Typically, philanthropic people don’t really want to touch our type of population, and these are probably the kids that need it the most. I’m also very happy with the fact that Get IN Chicago doesn’t have a linear approach; they’re flexible. They’re willing to listen and try new things. The program managers, Crystal Jackson and Lisa Moultrie get it; it’s very helpful, and it’s genuine. Having the support and opportunity to do what we do for these kids is priceless.
Q. How do you collaborate with other Get IN Chicago organizations?
Last year, we were part of the mentoring cohort with Illinois Mentoring Partnership. We covered best mentoring practices, shared stories, and gave feedback to one another – we were able to come together in that way.
In one of our cohort meetings, staff from Chicago Urban League and UCAN showed us the process of applying for summer funding. The cohort was instrumental because without that push or collaboration, we wouldn’t have known what to expect or how to go about the process. They helped us figure out what to apply for and how to update our old summer program in order to apply and really help those youth over the summer.
Q. What do you like about working in Roseland and Englewood?
Monique: It’s my neighborhood. It kind of feels like it is my responsibility to be here and do this work. And I really like the kids. A lot of people aren’t fond of the type of kids we work with, the ones that are pushed aside, and I feel it’s my responsibility to reach back for those kids.
Steve: At Fenger High School, we had 20 kids and all 20 graduated high school. At Hope High School, one young lady received a full ride at Purdue. The more challenging students from our neighborhoods- seeing them coexist and mingle with different parts of the city and see them be allowed to be kids is one of the best parts of our work.
Q. What would you recommend we check out in Roseland and Englewood?
- Old Fashioned Donuts – since 1972, this Roseland donut shop has served some of the best breakfast treats in the city
- Stone Memorial – Kids Off the Block (KOB) set up a stone memorial in memory of all the young people who have lost their life to gun violence since 2007. This memorial provides context to why the work is so important.
- Our schools – Hope, TEAM Englewood, and Fenger – and Kennedy-King College. Kennedy-King has a new Whole Foods right there!
Q. What are three fun facts about each of you?
- Great sense of humor
- I like music – I would like to learn to play music.
- I’m like Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School right now!
- I love people – I am very different in a social setting than I am at a cohort meeting.
- I love to dance to everything but Nickelback.