CHICAGO, IL, Nov. 17, 2017 – Save Our Streets NFP (SOS) has announced plans to open a youth empowerment center named after LaQuan McDonald, the unarmed teenager who was shot multiple times by a police officer at close range on October 20, 2014, and whose murder drew national attention. Like many of his friends living in communities without resources or proper guidance, LaQuan was drawn to the streets at an early age and was heavily influenced by the drugs and gangs that made up the brutal landscape of his West Side neighborhood.
According to SOS Founder Maurice Gunn, “The Center will serve as a safe haven – a place where teens like LaQuan can find refuge from the dangers and harm that plague their communities. We will offer special services, caring mentorship, skills training (including STEM-based programs), and work-development opportunities that are designed to prepare teens and young adults to be positive, productive participants and leaders in their communities.”
The LaQuan McDonald Empowerment Center comes at a pivotal time for Chicago’s underserved youth. Crime and violence dominate the streets that resulted in 456 homicides and 2,619 people shot in 2014. More recent statistics show that Chicago was responsible for nearly half of 2016’s increase in homicides in the United States. Over 30% of students never finish high school; unemployment has climbed to over 7%, and schools and social service agencies struggle to stay open.
Gunn asserts that “The disenfranchised youth who live in these neighborhoods have little incentive to break this bleak cycle. Something must be done to provide a better future for them. With the right resources, opportunities and intervention – LaQuan’s life may have had a far different ending.”
A key feature of the Empowerment Center will be a state of the art Digital Technology, Entertainment, and Multimedia Training Hub. This Center will allow disadvantaged youth, community organizations and local residents to create new forms of interaction, expression, communication, and entertainment in a digital, musical and video format. Youth will also take part in the designing of the Center as well as selecting programs that will better serve their needs and motivate them to stay engaged.
Save Our Streets is a 501c3 registered nonprofit organization that depends on donations, strategic partnerships, and government subsidies to ensure that its mission is fulfilled. It is currently on track to become a powerful youth resource that will prove to be self-sustainable within three years. SOS has accepted an invitation to purchase the property it needs to open the Center as part of a neighborhood revitalization program. The organization has launched a $65,000 fundraising campaign to initiate the purchase.
Gunn emphasizes, “We recognize that our youth are the key to Chicago’s social and economic progress; that resources matter; that opportunities matter; and that engaging in healthy activities can change the trajectory of an at-risk teen’s life.”
For more information about Save Our Streets, the LaQuan McDonald Empowerment Center and how the public can help with its fundraising campaign, please call (708) 791-7283 or visit www.SaveOurStreets.us.