CHICAGO - The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and over 750 youth from the Safety Net Works anti-violence initiative will unite to host the second annual town hall meeting created and organized by youth to take responsibility for their lives and curb the increase in violence in their communities. Building on last year’ unprecedented success, the invite-only Youth Town Hall Meeting was held at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) with young adults, ages 16-20 from at-risk communities throughout Illinois. This year’s theme is “Nothing About Us Without Us.”
“This town hall meeting serves as a critical tool for young people to be fully engaged with the future of their lives and their communities,” said Michelle R.B. Saddler, Secretary, IDHS. “I admire the steps they are taking to create a platform that will directly address tough issues as well as formulate tangible solutions.”
The Safety Net Works Youth Town Hall Meeting provided a unique perspective to youth mobilizing, by allowing young people to take the lead role as planners, panelists, and moderators. The panels were co-moderated by Dr. Carl Bell, Professor of Psychiatry and Public Health and the Director of the Institute for Juvenile Research at The University of Illinois at Chicago. The first panel, “Personal Accountability,” featured formerly incarcerated youth who provided insight on how they became entangled with the legal system and shared their experiences.
The second panel, “Youth in The Media,” allowed participants and panelists the chance to explore ideas on how the Safety Net Works’ youth in Illinois can collaborate with the media community to ensure fair coverage of youth issues. This panel included Fox news anchor Darlene Hill, Brenda Butler, Executive Director of Columbia Links at Columbia College, Garrard McClendon from CLTV and Host of Gerard McClendon Live, Kathy Chaney from The Chicago Defender, ABC News producer Stephen Lewis, and Carol Ash from NBC.
The afternoon concluded with performances from several artists, including Mikkey Halsted, The Pope and the platinum selling rapper Twista.
The participating young people came prepared to ask questions and follow-up with feasible recommendations including time frames for implementation. “Imagine what would be possible if we harnessed the minds of our youth to generate solutions to epidemics of violence and self-accountability for which our communities are so desperately seeking answers,” said Xavier Williams, IDHS Safety Net Works Program Manager.
This year’s theme builds upon the inaugural Youth Town Hall Meeting’s focus of structural institutions. Outcomes from the previous town hall included a community-specific youth data report, the development and implementation of a youth training for police recruits at the Chicago Police Department (CPD) Academy and a collaboration between Safety Networks and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in the development of a Peer Education Model.
About The Safety Net Works: The Safety Net Works is a direct service response initiative under the Illinois Department of Human Services that encompasses a preventive and rehabilitative approach to addressing youth violence in Illinois. The goal of The Safety Net Works is to empower youth to make positive choices that will have a lasting impact on communities. Last year’s inaugural Youth Town Hall Meeting led to several favorable outcomes, including the creation of a data report pertaining to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that was compiled from participant surveys, a youth-led training for CPD recruits and youth interaction with the Illinois Board of Education.