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posted: 4/29/2013 5:00 AM

Turn closed schools into teen centers

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Reflecting on the numerous homicides in Chicago of late, my mind set to thinking about how to both help our innocent youth and prevent further crimes. Unfortunately, many gang members can envision no other life path for themselves than joining a gang for survival and acceptance. How can we fight this mentality and work to save future generations from this plight?

We must all step up as a community to help our Chicago youth overcome this vicious cycle of crime. As an educator and parent volunteer, I have observed firsthand how parental involvement and participation in engaged activities can turn a child's life around. However, many underprivileged children do not have access to such familial structures or luxuries. What do we do?

With the coming consolidation and closing of 50-plus Chicago schools, I'm proposing that we convert many of these underutilized buildings into Boys/Girls Clubs for Chicago's youth. Parental volunteers and part-time teachers could staff these clubs. The benefits would be many: a safe haven after school; a place to socialize; enriched activities including sports, arts, job skills and tutoring; and opportunities for real jobs.

Who will pay to convert these former schools into club environments? Why not ask some of the industrialists and merchants who have built this great city to support this program? They have much to gain, as supporting this new program will increase opportunities for our current youth and for generations to come; offering, in turn, better jobs for a better workforce. I am certain the Michigan Avenue merchants and other business owners would rather see these underprivileged teens engaged in meaningful activities as opposed to running rampant all summer long.

The choice is yours Chicago: Either develop engaging programs for your youth, or continue to write their death sentence.

Debra A. Jones

Des Plaines

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