Magic Johnson Gives $10 Million to Expand Job Program for Chicago Youth

NBA Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson is continuing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to expanding the opportunities provided to inner-city kids.

In his latest efforts to help change the trajectory of urban youth, Johnson has donated $10 million to strengthen a summer job program for Chicago teens. The NBA player turned business mogul, along with Mark and Kimbra Walter, are partners in Inner City Youth Empowerment LLC and their generous gift will help triple the size of a program known as One Chicago Summer Plus.

Benefiting teens 16-19-years-old, One Chicago Summer Plus has a proven track record of being effective in helping to keep young people off the violent streets of Chicago. An assistant professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania did a recent study on the program and found that the youth accepted into the program committed nearly half as many violent crimes as the youth who applied to the program but didn’t get in. The study even showed that the same statistics held true 16 months after the summer program ended.

“We are proud to partner on an initiative that has proven to change the trajectory of at-risk kids’ lives,” Johnson was quoted saying in a press release. “Providing disadvantaged kids with alternatives is a step in the right direction toward helping them reach their full potential and curb violence in our neighborhoods.”

Last year, One Summer Chicago Plus hired and mentored 1,000 inner-city youth. This summer, 2,000 young participants will be afforded the opportunity to join the program and next year that number will increase to 3,000 students.

To qualify for the program, which includes a 25-hour-a-week summer job, a mentor and cognitive behavioral therapy and social-skills building, students must have missed six to eight weeks of high school or been directly involved in the juvenile justice system. To provide these program resources, the organization spends roughly $2,900 per student, nearly triple the amount traditional summer job programs spend.

In addition to the $10 million donation from Johnson, the city will contribute $6 million to the program, with some of the funds going toward training and supporting 500 mentors in order to ensure that an expansion does not compromise the quality of the program.

“The city of Chicago, with the support of our community and business partners, remains committed to reducing violence in our city,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel was quoted saying. “Through the generous grant, more youth will stay safe, active and engaged this summer while getting the skills and on-the-job training necessary for a bright future.”

SOURCE: Chicago Sun Times