Ombudsman Chicago takes a multi-layer approach to violence prevention

Students planting forget-me-not flowers with the Niles Police Dept.

Members of the CPS Ombudsman Option School planted flower seedlings in honor of Violence Prevention Week at the Police Department. Then some of the students read anti-violence poems, while Interim-Chief of Police Dennis McEnerney, Deputy Chief Joseph Penze, Deputy Chief Vincenzo Genualdi, and Detective Roy Balsamo help out.

Violence in Chicago is a complex, often oversimplified problem; and for many teens, it is a daily reality. As the school year comes to a close and Chicagoans prepare for the warmer and historically more violent months ahead, Ombudsman Chicago is implementing a multifaceted anti-violence initiative that includes in-school activities, employment opportunities and additional summer programming for students.

“The violence in Chicago affects everyone; but, there is no segment of the population that is hit harder than our city’s youth,” said Dr. Chaun Johnson, Ombudsman Chicago senior principal. “We have seen the devastation first-hand, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to work toward finding a solution.”

A CPS Options School program, Ombudsman Chicago specializes in offering out-of-school and off-track teens a second chance at academic achievement. With a core goal to help each student form a foundation of success that they can build upon and prepare for the future, Ombudsman provides an environment where students are empowered to make good choices.

In the classroom, Ombudsman’s violence prevention initiatives focus on student reflection and expression. This spring, the schools kicked off a series of special violence prevention events that began with Ombudsman Northwest honoring those they had lost to violence by planting forget-me-not flowers at the nearby Niles Police Department. Activities continued at Ombudsman South with an anti-violence presentation from hip hop artist, Jabari “Naledge” Evans; and, students at Ombudsman West held a peace rally where they participated in group discussions and created art projects that focused on the ways violence has impacted their lives.

Beyond the classroom, Ombudsman is harnessing the connection between youth employment and reduction in violent crime. Through relationships with local business owners, programs offered through the City of Chicago and partners such as State Senator Patricia VanPelt, Ombudsman strives to secure employment opportunities for its students during the summer months and throughout the school year. The schools work with students to create resumes, apply for jobs, prepare for job interviews and participate in special offsite training programs offered through partner organizations, such as Changing Life Education Initiative.

As an additional preventative measure to keep students engaged and on the right track, Ombudsman Chicago will extend its curriculum and instruction into the summer months. The summer program will be open to current Ombudsman students and will come to life in the form of an independent study course on the topic of Chicago’s history. Participating students will be encouraged to attend events, visit landmarks and participate in additional engagement activities throughout the summer months.

“It is our deepest hope that by working with our students to find new ways to express themselves, providing the responsibility that comes with a job and by creating opportunities to maintain academic focus through the summer, we will be able to make a difference,” said Dr. Chaun Johnson.

To learn more about Ombudsman visit

About Ombudsman Educational Services

Ombudsman Educational Services is a division of Educational Services of America (ESA), the nation’s leading provider of behavior therapy and alternative and special education programs for children and young adults. ESA partners with more than 250 public school districts in 23 states to serve 13,500 students each year in more than 160 schools and programs.

Ombudsman’s alternative education and dropout recovery programs help communities combat the staggering social and economic costs of high dropout rates. Since 1975, Ombudsman Educational Services has educated more than 155,000 at-risk students and students who have previously dropped out – and introduced them to all the opportunities a real high school diploma provides.

Originally published by: The Englewood Portal

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