A targeted jobs program with a proven track record for keeping at-risk youth safe from summer violence is in line for a dramatic expansion, thanks to a $10 million gift from a former NBA great.
Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, along with Mark and Kimbra Walter, are partners in Inner City Youth Empowerment LLC.
Their two-year, $10 million gift to the city will triple the size of the program known as “One Summer Chicago Plus” — and provide 5,000 summer jobs for young people at risk of being exposed to violence. The city will contribute $6 million during the same period.
One Summer Chicago Plus is a costly but effective summer jobs program whose 16- to 19-year-old participants are drawn from high schools in high-crime areas.
To qualify for the 25-hour-a-week summer jobs — as well as a mentor, cognitive behavioral therapy and social-skills building — students must first have missed six to eight weeks of high school or been directly involved in the juvenile justice system.
In a recent study, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania found that disadvantaged youth accepted into the program committed nearly half as many violent crimes as those who applied but didn’t get into the program. Those statistics held true 16 months after the two-month jobs program ended, researcher Sara Heller found.
The encouraging results were apparently enough to persuade Johnson, the former Los Angeles Lakers great now known for his business and philanthropic investments in inner-city neighborhoods, to make a big investment in Chicago’s at-risk youth.
“We are proud to partner on an initiative that has proven to change the trajectory of at-risk kids’ lives,” Johnson was quoted as saying in a press release.
“Providing disadvantaged kids with alternatives is a step in the right direction toward helping them reach their full potential and curb violence in our neighborhoods.”