Since 1969, when we first hit the streets in Chicago’s West Town community as a gang intervention organization, our work has touched the lives of more than 100,000 young people.
Over the past five decades, BUILD has evolved in many ways:
- Adding violence prevention programs for younger children;
- Increasing support for college access and career success; and,
- Weaving the arts and healthy living into all of our work.
BUILD’s tradition of leadership continues today with generations of BUILD alumni succeeding in all walks of life, supporting their families, and providing leadership in their own communities.
As BUILD approaches our 50th Anniversary, we have a tremendous need and an exciting opportunity to shape the "BUILD 2.0" that will change countless lives for decades to come.
In the coming year leading up to BUILD's 50th Anniversary Gala Celebration at Navy Pier, we will share our greatest achievements, champion the relevance of BUILD's involvement for future generations, and share stories from staff, youth, and partners stretching across our first 50 years. OUR SENSE OF HOPE IS CONTAGIOUS. OUR OPPORTUNITIES ARE BOUNDLESS. WE HOPE YOU WILL JOIN BUILD ON OUR EXCITING PATH FORWARD.
BUILD LEGACY: 50 YEARS OF STORIES
At BUILD, we are proud of our rich tradition of diversity – 80% of our team reflects the background and culture of the youth we serve. To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage month, the BUILDer sat down and reconnected with our first Latino Executive Director, Freddy Calixto. Calixto, who is of Puerto Rican descent, led BUILD for 15 years from the 1990’s into the 2000’s. He did not start at the top of the organization, however. Calixto grew up in Lincoln Park during the 1960’s and 70’s, which had a significant Latino population at the time. He would come to know BUILD through a community outreach worker who was helping to knock down cultural barriers that divided neighborhoods. “When [the community outreach worker] came out to us – I lived in Lincoln Park, and Cabrini Green was our neighbor – and so he was working with the African American community of Cabrini Green, then he was working with us in Lincoln Park, and then he would bring us together with different events; different sporting events.” Said Calixto.“So that’s what we did back then, and we got to see each other in a different light. We all grew up in the same neighborhood but it was divided by what streets you live on, where you hung out at – and that decided who you were with.” When he was in 8th grade, kids in the neighborhood started recruiting Calixto to join their gang. Though he resisted, Calixto eventually gave in. After a while, there was a line in the sand moment for Calixto during discussions of shooting a boy on his way to school. This was not the life for him, he decided, and he left the gang life behind. As he shifted his life in a different direction, Calixto continued his education following high school at Northeastern Illinois University. It is here that he rekindled his relationship with BUILD. Calixto received a work-study grant and on the list of different organizations he could work for was BUILD. Calixto joined BUILD as a field worker in the drug awareness program, and eventually became the director of this program. Calixto went on to earn both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree while working his way up within the BUILD organization. From a youth playing sports in the neighborhood, all the way to Executive Director, Calixto has seen every side of BUILD and its evolution throughout the years. Though Calixto no longer leads BUILD, he remains an agent for change in the city of Chicago. We are proud of the work he did when he was here, and of the work he continues to do. Listen to Freddy on our “50 Years of Stories” podcast series.