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Personal Experience Helps Youth Workers Relate to Gang Members

NCJ Number
Compiler Volume: 16 Issue: 2 Dated: (Fall 1996) Pages: 11-12,16
B Hulse
Date Published
3 pages
This article describes the backgrounds and the work of two youth workers who have returned to their former gang-infested neighborhood in Chicago to work with a project designed to increase opportunities for gang members to turn their lives around.
George Roque was steeped in the gang life of Chicago's Little Village until his mother packed him off to relatives in Kansas. Through the influence of religion and a reformed lifestyle, Roque returned to Little Village after 6 months and began working in Christian youth outreach efforts in Little Village. This eventually led him to participation in the University of Chicago's Gang Violence Reduction Project. Arturo Bracho also grew up in Little Village but resisted the lure of gang life. After graduating high school, he received a political science degree from Loyola University. He returned to Little Village and, like Roque, assumed a youth worker position with the Gang Violence Reduction Project. Based on their knowledge of the people and the community in which they grew up, Bracho and Roque interact with gang members on the streets to try and persuade them to take advantage of opportunities that will give them a future outside of gang life. They have helped enroll gang members in GED programs and assisted them in getting jobs. They also coordinate graffiti paint-outs, weekly basketball games, and social outings. They helped organize two intergang softball games in the last year. Although the youth workers cooperate with the police in helping to prevent gang violence, they are careful not to compromise the trust of the gang members with whom they work by identifying too closely with the police role of gang suppression.