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PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Sep 5, 2013

Austin, Galewood Residents Take Part In New Community-Based Planning Initiative

Dozens of West Side business owners and neighborhood residents gathered Wednesday evening for their first community-based planning meeting as part of a new Austin-Galewood Sustainability Roadmap spearheaded by Ald. Deborah Graham (29th). Progress Illinois was there for the meeting.

Quick Hit
by Michael Sandler
Tue Sep 3, 2013

Second Chance Summit Offers Hope to Ex-Offenders

Rita Allison felt hopeless.

Allison admits that she made some bad choices in her early 20’s, including committing felony retail theft. The offense ultimately led to a conviction, and Allison, now 55, says she has been unable to find steady employment since then due to her criminal record. 

The Bronzeville resident had been employed in the medical records field for years. But Allison said she got that job based on her resume, and didn’t have to provide a criminal history. However, things began to change for her in 2009, when she began looking for new work. Allison told Progress Illinois she was continually passed over for a number of jobs due to her felony record. Her husband, a veteran, receives a pension, but Allison says it isn’t enough to survive. As a result, she has gone without additional income for a period of time, causing her, Allison says, to lose her apartment.

But an upcoming event in Chicago might help Allison and others in her position. The Second Chance Summit, being held September 7 at the University of Illinois-Chicago Forum, will educate those with non-violent class three or four felony convictions on how to get the crimes expunged from their records. Legal volunteers from organizations including the Wiley Resource Center and Cabrini Green Legal Aid will provide free guidance, and members from the Urban Weatherization Initiative, an organization that trains Illinois residents to work in the green industry, will also be on hand to sign up participants for paid trainings.

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
Fri Aug 30, 2013

Community Members Skeptical As Rush, Kirk Promise Federal Support For Englewood (VIDEO)

Following a tour of the crime-ridden streets of Englewood on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D, IL-1) vowed to work together in a bipartisan effort to invest federal dollars to combat violence and poverty in the South Side neighborhood.

“We have agreed that this isn’t going to be a one-stop tour, or a cameo appearance,” said Rush, who invited Kirk to tour his district’s community following the congressional delegates’ disagreement earlier this year on how to clean up Englewood’s streets. “We need money, we need jobs.”

Kirk agreed, saying Englewood “has potential.”

“If we remove the scourge of gang violence from it, we will unlock its potential and we should do that,” the senator said, following his neighborhood visit.

Kirk and Rush said the three-hour tour, which was closed to the media, allowed them to see first-hand the abundance of abandoned properties and vacant lots that are often breeding grounds for crime in the neighborhood. Kirk said the tour was “pretty shocking” with “a lot of despair.”

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Aug 28, 2013

Local Police Chiefs Talk Gun Violence Prevention With Congressman Schneider, State Rep. Drury

Local law enforcement officials say gun violence is plaguing Cook and Cook counties, and they called upon U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D, IL-10) and State Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood) for help Wednesday at a roundtable discussion on the matter. Progress Illinois was there for the meeting.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Aug 26, 2013

First Day Of School Causes Headaches For Some New Ellington Elementary Parents (VIDEO)

The first day of school was a breeze for some Edward K. Ellington Elementary parents, but it was chaotic for others who were sending their children to the West Side “welcoming school” for the first time.

Ellington, located in Chicago's Austin community, is receiving students this academic year from nearby Robert Emmet Elementary and Francis Scott Key Elementary, both of which shut down in June due to the district’s reported underutilization crisis. Ellington’s enrollment has now jumped from about 350 students to more than 800.

Chricia Johnson’s son and daughter, who previously attended Key, were not able to enjoy their first day of school due to a registration mix-up at Ellington. Johnson said she registered both of her children at Ellington before school started, but only her daughter was on the list today. Her son had been enrolled at Thomas Chalmers Specialty Elementary School, located outside of the Austin community.

“It was a lot of blame [today] and no one taking responsibility,” Johnson said just before school let out for the day. “This is ridiculous. They pretty much ruined the school system. They ruined our kids' education.”

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Aug 26, 2013

West Side CPS Welcoming School Sees ‘Smooth Transition’ On First Day Of Classes

Oscar DePriest Elementary School on Chicago’s West Side was bustling this morning as hundreds of returning and new students from recently-closed schools began their first day of classes. Progress Illinois was there to see how the morning went.

Quick Hit
by Aricka Flowers
Mon Aug 26, 2013

CPS Students Head Back To School, Safe Passage Program Takes Center Stage

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students have made their way back to class today, marking the first day of school since the Chicago Board of Education voted to shutter 50 neighborhood schools in May. Forty-eight of those schools were closed in June. 

Today is also the first day the expanded Safe Passage program has gone into effect, which is meant to help students safely travel to and from school as thousands of children trek to unfamiliar schools this year as a result of the closings. Many of the welcoming schools are located farther away from students' homes than their previous school, leading critics of the closings to say the move puts children at an increased risk of falling prey to gang violence or predators. Just one day before school began, a 28 year-old man was shot along a Safe Passage route and a 14 year-old boy was shot and killed less than a block away from Melody Stem School, a West Side welcoming school. Nonetheless, CPS insists the hundreds of workers in the Safe Passage program will provide students with the necessary security and supervision needed to keep them safe.