We develop youth and the community through programs that change the negative norms present in our neighborhood and replace them with a positive culture. As youth move throughout our programs, their level of ownership in the community increases. We challenge the accepted negative norms of the community and try to replace those with a positive culture. By the time youth reach adulthood, they have become community stakeholders, capable of contributing to the positive culture of the community.
People often talk about "getting out" of their neighborhood. That's not what we are looking for. Why take skills and talents to places that already have resources? We want to see youth gain skills and abilities they can then contribute to their communities. We want to see not only individuals lives transformed, but communities changed.
Beyond the Ball can point to many of our alumni as proof of our success. Several of the youth involved since Beyond the Ball's inception are now attending or have graduated college. Many have returned to the West Side and found employment, bringing stability to the community. In addition, areas formerly dominated by gang activity have started to shift back to being owned by the community, and used by the public as originally intended.
We run programming primarily in Little Village (also called South Lawndale). and also serve neighboring North Lawndale. These are two Chicago neighborhoods with significant challenges, but also much to offer.
Little Village has been primarily Latino since the 1960s and continues to serve as a major gateway for Mexican immigrants. Its 90,000 inhabitants form the densest community in Chicago, and its 40,000 youth under age 20 give it the youngest median age of any community in the city. At the same time, it has the least amount of green space per capita. It contains few open, safe spaces for youth and their families to play. These factors, combined with the culture of gang violence and overall lack of resources create negative norms and obstacles for youth in the community.
North Lawndale experienced changes during the great migration of the 1950’s and has since been a predominantly African-American neighborhood. Riots in the 1960’s after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death changed the face of the neighborhood, and when combined with several industries leaving over the next decade, had an impact that continues to be felt on a neighborhood with little economic development. North Lawndale was once described as a smile missing a number of teeth, recognizing that many buildings have been torn down or are unoccupied, but there are still left many solid greystones and committed community members.
Each of these communities deals with poverty, struggling schools, high rates of pediatric obesity and chronic disease, high rates of teen pregnancy, and high crime. These difficulties have become an accepted part of life here. Beyond the Ball seeks to overthrow those norms, creating a positive culture now and in the future.