A youth facility that has been on the Westside of Chicago for years is growing and continuing to progress their services offered to the community. The Peace Corner Youth Center, 5022 W. Madison, held an open house, Saturday June 15 to show the community their facility and to inform them on their current and future program available to youth.
The open house started at 3:00 p.m. and while snacks were offered, guests were given an opportunity to look around the facility. One of Peace Corner’s latest installments was the remodeling of their basketball court, located in the far back of the building. The court’s grounds was covered in blue and orange and college banners of prestigious schools covered the walls of the court, which was later explained by Executive Director, Duane Wilson, that those banners are used to motivate the young people who come through daily.
Peace Corner has been part of the Austin Community since 2002. Founded by Fr. Maurizio Binaghi, the Peace Corner’s first location was on Cicero Ave., and was set to be a safe haven for young people in the community. Children and teens came to get help with their homework as well as talk about some of the issues they went through at home.
The physical space became small but the staff members and youth participants rapidly grew resulting to the move of the facility on Madison. Binaghi said that many of the young people that come in are like his children and he is amazed at how much a lot of them have grown.
One young man in particular is 22-year-old Sebastian Longstreet. Longstreet said that his life changed for the better when he became
part of the Peace Corner. He said after his father, who was the sole provider of his home, was incarcerated when he was 12-years-old he had difficulty finding a job. He began selling drugs to make money and was soon incarcerated for two years at the age of 17. When he was released in March of 2010, he participated in the construction program that the Peace Corner offered.
Longstreet has been a consistent member of the Peace Corner ever since. He currently holds the title of the Youth Supervisor and Community Outreach Leader. He is now a full-time student at Dominican University with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Social Justice Communications. He said that the Peace Corner is unique because he does not have to worry about keeping up a “tough” reputation.
“One thing I’ve learned from being here is that no matter what mistakes you make, you can correct them”, said Longstreet.
Aside from their new refurnished basketball court that organizes summer tournaments, Peace Corner offers free on-site health services (dental, medical, and asthma mobile units), and a community career fair. The youth program includes after-school tutoring during the school year with access to computers. The Peace Corner activities include a six-week summer program, a girls support group, and a comedy improv training program working with Second City.
Peace Corner also offers a 12-week career development program for young adults teaching them skills on obtaining jobs. In the near future they will have a Peace Corner Android application where the youth’s progress will be updated and can be tracked. A new program called Peace Corner University (PCU) gives youth the experience of completion. Once they have completed a specific program, (i.e. their recent CPR classes) students will be rewarded with an achievement certificate.
Some of the guests that were in attendance included: State Representative, La Shawn K. Ford; State Representative of the 11th District, Ann M. Williams; and 28th ward aldermen, Jason C. Ervin.
“Peace Corner has been successful in their goal and purpose of creating a safe haven for youth”, said Aldermen Ervin.
For more information on the Peace Corner Youth Center view their website, peacecorner.org or call at 773-261-5330.