Chicago Teens And Combat Veterans Join Forces To Process Trauma with Urban Warriors Program

Jim Courtney-Clarks, 15, talks with Army veteran Alberto Bóleros during the Urban Warriors program in December. The Chicago program is designed to bring together veterans and youth who have been exposed to the city's violence. Alyssa Schukar for NPR

Jim Courtney-Clarks, 15, talks with Army veteran Alberto Bóleros during the Urban Warriors program in December. The Chicago program is designed to bring together veterans and youth who have been exposed to the city's violence.

Alyssa Schukar for NPR


NPR, January 25, 2016 by Audie Cornish.

If you took a map of Chicago and put down a tack for each person shot last year, you'd need nearly 3,000 tacks.

Of those, 101 would be clustered in the neighborhood of East Garfield Park. That's where 15-year-old Jim Courtney-Clarks lives.

"To be honest, I really don't like it," Courtney-Clarks says. "Every time you look up somebody else is getting killed, and I never know if it's me or somebody I am really close to."

For kids in some Chicago neighborhoods, walking up and down the same street where there was a beating or a shooting or a body is just part of life — one that isn't always talked about.

That's something the Urban Warriors program is trying to change. The YMCA of Metro Chicago project connects kids like Courtney-Clarks, who live in high-violence neighborhoods, with veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and who might understand what they're going through.

The program is built on the idea that these kids are experiencing trauma and need to process it, and that witnessing or experiencing violence can affect how they behave at home, react at school, or lead them to commit violence themselves.

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