Bronzeville’s new community outreach KEY program provides a restorative space where children can be open about trauma – CBS Chicago
CHICAGO (CBS) – Michael Brown, 15, was walking home from school in Bronzeville on Tuesday, February 8, only to be shot and killed before he even got home.
Fear for their own safety is a constant for the children in this neighborhood. But CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra has found a program that helps them feel that — and then move on.
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Imagine you are a teenager growing up in Bronzeville right now. The pressures of the often chaotic and sometimes violent outside world are always present, but something changes when the children walk through the door of New Community Outreach, 3627 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
What’s going on there seems one-sided to Jonathan Norman.
“It feels good, but it’s a little weird, to be honest,” he said.
It’s another way to see Gionna Shack.
“Pure bliss,” Shack said. “Every time I walk through that door, it’s joyful.”
But the work done within the walls of New Community Outreach creates the same result in both.
“Every time when I’m in this space, I can just be myself,” Shack said.
“I don’t have to be that big or pretend – it’s just me,” Norman added. “I can be myself.”
They are part of the KEY program, an acronym for Knowledge Empowers Youth. Her goal is to create a restorative space, where children can safely talk and share about trauma.
The subjects are as big and vast as the violence of the city.
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“It’s a war zone, as we all know,” Norman said. “I literally have to dodge and dodge bullets and change the way I do things.”
For others, the topics are deeply personal.
“I guess, my household,” Shack said.
General Manager Sonia Wang helps them feel the feelings.
“There’s so much going on, and we don’t often take the time to say, ‘I just went through this, and I felt this, and now I’m going to move on,'” Wang said.
And they move forward, transforming the passion of their micro-community into events for the larger one.
“There’s a measure of healing and reconciliation, but it’s also about nurturing,” Wang said.
They do this by learning that their thoughts are important, that it is okay to share them, and that grief becomes growth.
“They have the same issues,” Shack said. “It’s like I’m not alone.”
And it is a key to the life they will lead.
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“We don’t get a lot of opportunities to express how we feel — or when we do, it’s not really heard,” Norman said. “but they make us feel wanted.”