Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Panel Traces Path from Childhood Trauma to Youth Violence

For decades, Americans have debated whether and to what extent violence committed by adolescents and young adults can be attributed to having had a bad childhood.

Evidence continues to grow that trauma like abuse, neglect and witnessing violence at an early age rewires children’s brains and thus adversely affects their mental health going forward, helping to explain the “reactive aggression” that prompts a range of anti-social behaviors, according to participants in a roundtable discussion hosted by LISC Chicago on Jan. 30, the second in the “Healthy Wednesday” series on a variety of topics.
Panelists Brad Stolbach (purple shirt), a pediatrician at La Rabida Children’s Hospital, and Eddie Bocanegra, a congregational organizer at the Community Renewal Society and a graduate student at University of Chicago, discuss the issues with audience members after the event.
Gordon Walek
The United Nations’ definition of a child soldier—in part, “any person under 18 years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity”—applies to those who have experienced multiple traumas and, in particular, witnessed violence, even if not actually during wartime, said Dr. Brad Stolbach a pediatrician at La Rabida Children’s Hospital.

And children experiencing such traumas in Colombia or Nepal, rather than Chicago or New York, probably would be routinely referred to as child soldiers, he said. “We need to understand what’s happening in context: That means developmental context, looking through a trauma lens, and using information … to understand how what we’re seeing makes sense,” he added. “If we see them in their developmental context, then we can understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and then we can try to help.”

The undeniable existence of the potential connections between trauma and deteriorating mental health and aggression doesn’t fully justify the anti-social actions of any one individual, cautioned Dr. Elena Quintana, executive director of the Institute of Public Safety and Social Justice at The Adler School of Professional Psychology. But it does help explain the statistical likelihoods, she told the 40 or so attendees at the forum, many of them from LISC New Communities Program lead agencies.

“This is really about looking at trends,” Quintana said. “If your body is readying itself for war when you’re a kid, it’s really hard to calm down when you’re an adult because you’ve become wired in that way. … The need for modulation of that brain development leads to health-risk behaviors.” Trauma impairs social, emotional and cognitive development, she added.
Kathryn Saclarides Bocanegra (right), director of violence prevention at Enlace Chicago, the lead agency for Little Village in LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program, talks with an audience member.
Gordon Walek
Ground Level View
As director of violence prevention at Enlace Chicago, the lead agency for Little Village in the New Communities Program, Kathryn Saclarides Bocanegra has seen at the ground level how exposure to violence leads to behavioral problems as a youth, which lead to increased risks for one’s own outcomes.

“If you’re a witness, you’re much more likely to be a victim or a perpetrator,” she said. “Trauma, in communities like Little Village … can become part of the common human experience. It’s just accepted: This is the way life is.” And residents have reason to think so, even if they’re wrong in the larger sense: “We can’t get angry at people for responding normally to abnormal conditions.”

Oversimplified media accounts of how and why violence happens lead to superficial and ineffective responses, such as harsh school discipline and incarceration, Saclarides Bocanegra said. She pointed to the November 2012 murder of 20-year-old Freddie Hernandez, a Little Village resident, as a case study.

The son of immigrant parents who was born in Little Village, Hernandez was exposed to domestic violence, his father left the family when he was in fifth grade, and his mother (as sole provider) needed to work unstable jobs due to her documentation status and couldn’t adequately attend to her children, Saclarides Bocanegra said.
Dr. Elena Quintana, executive director of the Institute of Public Safety and Social Justice at The Adler School of Professional Psychology, answers an audience member's question.
Gordon Walek
Hernandez experienced academic difficulties and bullying both from schoolmates and from the police, who sometimes picked him up and dropped him in opposition gang territory, she said. He became initiated into a gang in significant measure for the protection against his bullies that provided.

After dropping out of high school at age 16, Hernandez righted himself, attended mentoring sessions and left the gang at 18. He showed promise but still lived in the same community and had a certain reputation among his peers.

At 20, he was killed, and the Chicago Tribune reported that police suspected the murder was “gang related,” which Saclarides Bocanegra said is sadly typical. “Do you see how much is missing from the whole way in how we unpack the life of this person?” she said. “And that’s usually the most polite version we get.”

People in the community and elsewhere started blaming Hernandez or his parents for his killing. When in reality, “Freddie’s death was 20 years in the making,” Saclarides Bocanegra said. “It didn’t just happen that night when somebody picked up a gun, got in a car and was involved in a drive-by shooting.”

To interrupt such cycles, she added, community groups don’t have to collect data or design new programming, but it helps when they simply integrate this way of thinking into existing programs. “You have to get people to look at each other and reconnect to each other: ‘My well-being is connected to your well-being.’ ”

Where Research Points
Quintana presented research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – a collaboration between Drs. Robert Anda of the federal Centers for Disease Control, Vincent Felitti of Kaiser Permanente and Laura Porter of the Family Policy Council in Washington state – which has helped draw the connections between ACEs and mental instability in a vast sample of 17,000 mostly middle-class, college-educated patients.

The survey asked about childhood abuse and neglect (including physical, emotional or sexual), family experiences with mental illness, incarceration or domestic violence, divorce or parental loss, and substance abuse. Two-thirds of those surveyed had experienced at least one ACE, and 87 percent of those with one had experienced two; women were 50 percent more likely to have had at least five, Quintana said. “[Adverse childhood experiences] kind of travel in packs,” she said.
This "pie slice" chart shows the percentage of survey respondents who had experienced each of the following outcomes. “If you are able to prevent adverse childhood experiences, it’s like putting a giant sponge in the middle of this oil slick and sucking it up all at once," Quintana said.
Chart by Sasha Silveanu
Referring to a graph that displayed each ACE outcome as a pie slice, and the percentage of respondents who had experienced each as an oddly-shaped “oil slick” in the center (see graph, at left), she said, “If you are able to prevent adverse childhood experiences, it’s like putting a giant sponge in the middle of this oil slick and sucking it up all at once. You can prevent all of these things simultaneously.”

Without that sponge, the oil slick tends to spread, Quintana said. To stop it, those who work with youth need to approach them in a non-judgmental way to ensure they don’t “run away,” she said. “Shame and blame paralyze people. We really need to change the way we look at public health issues, where we put that shame and blame aside.”

Then, to promote healing and resilience among the “walking wounded,” they must find “a trustworthy person to talk to about their true situation or feelings,” gain “the ability to reframe their life” and realize that, for example, their parents’ drinking problem is not their fault, Quintana said. That leads to the ability “to have hope for your future,” she said, which is aided by such factors as intelligence, talent, skill mastery and the opportunity for creative expression. “We have to address trauma if we really want lasting community safety,” Quintana concluded.

Based on checklists given to kids and adults about what adverse experience they had experienced and when, the ACEs study helps to put violence in a larger context, Stolbach said. Yet public policy tends to put it only in a narrow criminal context, and governments spend millions on prisons without adequately addressing the underlying issues, he said, which disproportionately affect people of color and poor people.

Research has shown that multifaceted trauma—of the sort that particularly affects prison populations, youth in juvenile detention and children in foster care—impacts numerous developmental capacities, such as the ability to understand one’s own emotions, self-soothe or to feel empathy toward others, Stolbach said.
Jim Alexander compares notes with LISC Chicago Executive Director Susana Vasquez.
Gordon Walek
According to “violence interrupters” from the anti-violence group CeaseFire, he said, many youth with whom they work had multiple self-reports of violence in their family and communities and ongoing trauma as a result. The average age of the first exposure was 6, he added, while the average age at which participants first saw violence was 8. “It starts early.” Multiple types of maltreatment produces hair-trigger “reactive aggression.”

Institutions like Adler and La Rabida are providing training on recognizing and dealing with ACEs, Stolbach said. “Any time a child experiences a trauma, it’s an opportunity,” he said. “We would save billions of dollars” if public health was handled more pro-actively and comprehensively.

Solutions for Engagement
Eddie Bocanegra knows all of this first-hand. He has worked with the University of Illinois and CeaseFire to mediate conflicts and stop the violence in Pilsen, Little Village, the town of Cicero, and occasionally Gage Park, and he was among those whose violence prevention work was featured in the 2011 film, “The Interrupters.” Bocanegra also was formerly incarcerated for 14 years for “taking someone’s life in my community” during his years as a gang member.

Now a congregational organizer at the Community Renewal Society and a student at University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, Bocanegra talked about a number of programs in the neighborhoods he works that attempt to address the causes and/or effects of violence. “I was left dealing with the aftermath. What happens to these families when they have to bury their son” or constantly be visiting him in the hospital, he said.

Once such effort, Grupo Consuelo, rallies parents who lost children to shooting, stabbing or suicide but don’t necessarily have the “luxury” to take time off work to grieve for an extended period. “What do we do with these families? How do we support them afterward … through this process of grieving?” he said. “How do we stop their remaining kids from becoming victims—or from becoming perpetrators?”

Randall Blakey, LaSalle Street Church executive pastor, chats with Stolbach.
Gordon Walek
That’s where LuchARTE comes in: The community arts group engages gang-involved youth and uses art to process their life trauma; an ACEs survey of participants showed that all had experienced physical abuse and witnessed violence, and 75 percent had witnessed homicide, among other findings, Bocanegra said.

Another program called Urban Warriors specifically targets combat veterans and other young men with a need to process trauma. The program tries to educate these youth, who have the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as their parents. “Why is it that they get high?” he said. “Why is it that they have these maladaptive behaviors or coping mechanisms?”

Finally, Bocanegra talked about FORCE, a/k/a Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality, which works with ex-offenders, many of whom committed their crimes at a very young age, and attempts to help them overcome the obstacles that having a record creates. “I am discriminated against because of my background,” he said simply. “People constantly ask me, ‘Eddie, how did you make it?’ ”

His answer: a supportive family, friends who invested in him, professors from his undergraduate days at Northeastern Illinois University who believed in him. Now, as an organizer, Bocanegra focuses on creating systemic change.

“It’s one thing to work with these individuals, but if their home environment doesn’t change, if their community doesn’t change, then we haven’t done anything,” he says. “How do we build bridges between people who need these services … and the clinicians that are often from streets [in places] like Roselle, or Michigan Avenue, or Skokie, or Evanston?”

To learn more about the cyclical connections between mental health and violence, Saclarides Bocanegra recommended the book “Changing Places: How Communities Will Improve the Health of Boys of Color,” edited by Christopher Edley Jr., and Jorge Ruiz de Velasco.

For further details on the presentations at this “Healthy Wednesday” session, download this Powerpoint.
LISC Chicago's health work is funded in part by The Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute.
Posted in Health, Little Village

Friday, September 5, 2014




Arts Infusion Knowledge Share

September 8th, 2014


Old Town School of Music

4544 N. Lincoln Ave


9:30am -10:00am Breakfast

10:00am - 2:00pm Program



Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Seeking Teaching Artists

For Fall/Winter School Year


About Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre's mission is to fuse dance, music, and visual art to explore and celebrate the cultural diversity of contemporary American life. The founding artists' philosophy seeks to enhance the human experience through the creative fusion of innovative and original work in each of these disciplines.  CRDT also is dedicated to community programs to teach students in underserved communities how the arts can provide a powerful alternative to violence in conflict resolution. For more information on CRDT's community programs please email us.


Job Description

Cerqua Rivera is seeking experienced teaching artists with knowledge of incorporating dance/movement into classroom curriculum.  All classes are held in partnership with Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy.  Teaching artists is responsible for providing a positive collaborative program with the classroom teacher to create an innovative program that reinforces curriculum goals, engages and challenges students in the study of dance and science/health.  In addition to leading movement classes, teaching artist is responsible for leading discussions about proper nutrition and hydration and basic body movements in dance as well discussions about movement and choreography along with an overall history of dance. This program is fundamentally devoted to: stretching and conditioning, emphasizing proper body placement and technique, the exploration & creation of movement and to support the students in ESL development.


Knowledge of multiple dance forms and dance history a plus.  Other curricula experience/background highly desired: theater, music, English.



Mon- Thru 12:50-2:30

Friday at 9:56-10:36

Submit your cover letter and resume to:

Wilfredo Rivera

Artistic Director
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre

National Young Arts Foundation 2015 application cycle now open!!

If you feel you have a student ready to apply for this amazing opportunity don't wait apply today.


2015 Application Cycle
Application is OPEN.
Deadline: October 17, 2014

Why Apply

YoungArts Winners represent a dynamic group of artists who go on to become leading professionals in their fields. Alumni are Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony award nominees. They dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the New York City Ballet, and play in the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic Orchestras. Their work appears on The New York Times bestseller list, at The Museum of Modern Art and in the Sundance Film Festival.

By applying to the YoungArts program you are eligible for:

·         Up to $10,000 in monetary awards

·         Exclusive U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts nomination

·         Master classes with world-renowned artists

·         Access to scholarships, career opportunities and professional contacts

·         Opportunity for works to be viewed by top artists in their fields

·         All applicants to YoungArts have the opportunity to learn about college programs, scholarships, summer programs and festivals through participation in the YoungArts Student List Service (SLS)

About YoungArts

YoungArts identifies and nurtures emerging artists ages 15-18 (or in grades 10-12) in the visual, literary, design and performing arts.  Winners in cinematic arts, dance, design, jazz, music, photography, theater, visual arts, voice, and writing are provided once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, significant access to scholarships and national recognition.  YoungArts ensures the nation’s most outstanding young artists are encouraged – at critical junctures in their lives – to pursue careers in the arts.

About the Awards


National Winners

Every year the country’s most promising young artists are selected from across the country as National Winners.   Last year alone there were 687 Winners chosen from over 11,000 applications from across the nation. These Winners have the opportunity to attend YoungArts programs which include master classes with internationally renowned artists, workshops, interdisciplinary activities, performances and exhibitions.  In addition, all YoungArts Winners join the ranks of our 20,000 YoungArts alumni and go on to the top universities and conservatories across the country to become leading professionals in their fields. 

Recognition Levels

Merit: Receive a Certificate of Achievement, a medallion, a Recommendation Letter and are invited to participate in regional programs.  The winner’s high school also receives an engraved plaque with the names of every winner from that school.

Honorable Mention: Receives the same benefits as a Merit winner plus a $250 monetary award.

Finalist: Receives the same benefits as a Merit winner plus an invitation to National YoungArts Week held in January for final adjudication to determine award designation (Level 3 $1000, Level 2 $1500, Level 1 $3000, Silver $5000, Gold $10,000).

YoungArts Programs

YoungArts Program participants enjoy the rare opportunity to take master classes and interdisciplinary workshops from world-renowned artists, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bill T. Jones, Marina Abramovic, Frank Gehry, Wynton Marsalis, Placido Domingo, James Rosenquist and other masters in a variety of artistic disciplines with the opportunity to perform and exhibit their works at cultural venues in each program city.

National YoungArts Week: Our National YoungArts Week Finalists, spanning ten disciplines, converge in Miami for YoungArts Week held each January.  Finalists continue to be adjudicated during YoungArts Week by participating in master classes, performances, exhibitions, and interdisciplinary sessions.  Finalists who are graduating high school seniors also have the opportunity to be nominated by YoungArts to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Commission.

Regional Programs: Inspired by the transformative experiences offered during National YoungArts Week, Regional Programs are designed to offer the YoungArts experience to as many Winners as possible from an ever-growing list of locations.  Presently, our Regional Programs are YoungArts Miami, YoungArts New York, and YoungArts Los Angeles.

How to Apply

Application to YoungArts is made through the completion of an on-line application and submission of an audition or portfolio. No references or academic transcripts are required. There is a $35 (non-refundable) application fee per category. Fee waivers are available. Applicants may submit in more than one discipline or category within a discipline. Please refer to the discipline and category guidelines for details.

Deadline for submission of both application and audition portfolio is October 17, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). No application will be reviewed unless a complete set of materials is submitted by the deadline.


Young artists in grades 10-12 or ages 15-18 on December 1, 2014 may apply. International students who are studying in the U.S. on a student visa are eligible to apply. 

Audition Portfolio Requirements

Each of our 10 disciplines (cinematic arts, dance, design, jazz, music, photography, theater, visual arts, voice, and writing) have specific requirements for the audition portfolio. Information on audition and portfolio requirements are available on the YoungArts website here

Adjudication of Application Materials and Audition Portfolio

YoungArts has a rigorous blind adjudication process. No identifying information on submitted audition portfolio materials is permitted. Independent panels of discipline specific adjudicators review all completed application submissions without any knowledge of the applicant.  Each submission is reviewed in its entirety by the panel members. Following the review process, applicants from the total pool are selected as National Winners.

Notification of Application Status

All applicants will receive email and hard copy mailed notification of their status by December of 2014.

For more inspiration watch this video.

Monday, August 25, 2014

2014/2015 Knowledge Share


Recruiting – Retaining – Engaging 


September 8th

9:30am – 2:00pm

Old Town School of Music

4544 N Lincoln Avenue
Chicago Illinois

As we enter our fifth year in Arts Infusion many of our organizations continue to struggle with recruitment.  In some cases, once new students do enroll, we run the risk of losing them to other (and sometimes riskier) activities.  The September knowledge share is dedicated to exploring different engagement techniques from organizations across the country.  Collectively we will work to develop recruitment and engagement strategies that can be implemented immediately.  During the morning session we will explore the strategies provided in the National Guild for Community Arts Engagement guide: Engaging Adolescents Building Youth partnership in the arts.  Then in smaller break-out sessions, we will share successful strategies and perspective that improved student engagement.

Goals for the September workshop include:

Ø  Review the target population

Ø  Identify organizational recruitment goals. 

Ø  Identify successful recruitment strategies.

Ø  Understand the importance of developing long-term retention plans.


9:30 – 10:00                                           Breakfast/Meet and Greet
10:00 – 10:30                                         Welcome/Introduction/Announcement

10: 30 – 11:30                                        Engaging Adolescents Building Youth partnership

                                                       Presenter – Ann Douglas

11:30 – 12:00                                         Breakout sessions/ small group assignments

                                                       Group Leaders – Ozivell Ecford &  Jucinda Bullie
12: 00 – 12:45                                         Lunch

 12:45 – 1:30                                           Report findings/Planning

1:30 – 2:00                                              Upcoming Events/ Annual Calendar

Teaching Artists please come prepared to share two things;  One,  please bring one of your must successful classroom activities that have proven to make even to most skeptical student brake down walls of resistance, be prepared to lead the group through this activity. Two,  please bring  your organizations calendar of events  for the 2014/2015 school year.  It is our hope to provide more engagement opportunities for our youth across the Arts Infusion network.  This begins with us developing an annual calendar which will include performances and showcases that all AI students can attend.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Save The Dates

I hope you are all having a safe and productive summer.  The new school year is fast approaching please mark your calendars for the 2014/2015 knowledge share schedule.   
Arts Infusion
2014/2015 Knowledge Share Dates
Monday September 8th
10:00am - 2:00pm
Monday November 10th
10:00am - 2:00pm
Monday February 16th
10:00am - 2:00pm
Monday April 6th
10:00am - 2:00pm

Saturday, August 2, 2014


This is a wonderful opportunity for arts infusion partners to build awareness about your fall programs and bring some attention to the fine work you are doing while supporting a cause that I know is important to all of us.



Saturday, September 6th 

11am and 3pm 

North Lawndale Christian Community Center

 3750 W. Ogden

We are currently seeking organizations willing to set up an information tables so attendees can learn more about of the services you provide. This event will be greatly publicized so that the larger Chicago area is aware of the resources made available to them (such as jobs, housing opportunities, and GED tutoring services).

We will have several artists (singers, poets, and rappers) present their art and also speak to the audience about the ills of gun violence. There will be food, games, school supplies and book giveaways.
Please click on this link to confirm your participation in the event. All co-sponsors will be acknowledged for their contributions.

If you have any questions, please email kenyatta.rogers02@gmail or

call me at 330-348-1884.

Thanks once again for your time and consideration. No one else can take our city back but us. We look forward to connecting with you soon!