Despite its great cultural and economic contributions to Chicago, Bronzeville is still recovering from decades of disinvestment. To address the existing inequities, a local non-profit is making long-term plans to revitalize the community through its workforce.
To spur lasting change, Bright Star Community Outreach invests in Bronzeville’s future — its youth.
By expanding on a citywide, summer youth-employment program, the community non-profit is laying plans for an employment pipeline that connects local youth to summer jobs and internships and prepares them for higher education and/or rewarding careers.
“We believe that if we can begin with the young people and set them on a trajectory of success, then we can impact the landscape of the community,” said Nichole Carter, director of community strategy and development for Bright Star Community Outreach.
Community tackles inequalities through workforce development
Bright Star Community Outreach (BSCO) is the lead agency of the Greater Bronzeville Neighborhood Network, a coalition of 13 community partners supported by United Way of Metro Chicago. The partners — including social service agencies, schools and healthcare providers — work together to offer solutions and services aimed at reducing poverty and violence by enhancing employment and career opportunities for its 42,000-plus residents.
For decades, the city’s investment in Bronzeville has been disproportionate to other communities. Presently, the neighborhood has 19 percent unemployment rate and $29,500 median income. In 2013, the city closed 50 public schools, primarily in communities of color. A handful of schools in the greater Bronzeville area were shuttered or reconfigured during the process.
“The message that was given was ‘education is not that important in Bronzeville.’ Now, what do we do for some of those young people who may become disenfranchised or disconnected from education?” Nichole asked.
To answer that question, BSCO is filling the gap through youth training and employment opportunities.