Through his middle-school career, Mario, a student from Brighton Park, had a long history of failing grades and missing classes. But when his friend was killed in a gang-related shooting, Mario’s academics and social interactions dramatically declined.
Recognizing that his behavior grew worse due to this recent trauma, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC), a United Way community partner, intervened. Working with the school, BPNC developed a plan to help Mario begin healing and be successful in school.
As the lead agency of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Network, BPNC seeks to establish a safer community, improve the learning environment at public schools, preserve affordable housing, and more to uplift the southwest side community. Through connections to other community stakeholders and financial support, United Way helps BPNC achieve these goals and build a stronger neighborhood for every person in Brighton Park, including students like Mario, who have been affiliated with gangs and have experienced direct or second-hand trauma.
With a plan in place, the BPNC team referred Mario to the agency’s school-based mental health services. A clinician worked with Mario to process his feelings in a positive way and helped him find outlets to deal with his anger. At the same time, Mario began to receive case management from one of the agency’s violence prevention case managers to shift his trajectory away from gang-involvement.
This multi-level approach is the core of BPNC and United Way’s work to address our neighbors’ varying needs. We realize that many issues individuals and families face are connected and require multiple services to ensure they can meet their full potential.
With BPNC’s support and his parents’ participation, Mario began to regularly attend school, his after-school programs and his mental health sessions. In time, he’s begun to process his loss and improved his grades.
Though his healing journey will continue, Mario’s excited about what lies ahead. At the end of the school year, Mario said he’s looking forward to a successful first year of high school!