Our Story

Positive Youth Development Since 1969
[alt.]Transforming Young Lives Since 1969

BUILD has been a leader in youth development since its founding in 1969, helping young people navigate and overcome significant barriers to lead healthy, productive and fulfilling lives.

A pioneer in gang intervention, BUILD has grown from working with 200 gang-affiliated teens in one neighborhood, to serving almost 3,000 youth annually in four priority communities. Today, BUILD offers an array of best-practice programs and services, targeted in four priority communities, that focus on Prevention, Intervention and Education, all further supported by integrated services in physical and mental health, the arts and leadership development.

The young people we serve have come from under-resourced communities and schools, often trying to make their way amidst profound poverty, violence, isolation, addiction, poor health and a lack of opportunities.

BUILD has looked beyond these circumstances and seen very real potential in these youth, and grown and adapted programs to meet their changing needs. We’ve provided the vital services and adult support necessary to help them move forward with purpose, access education al and working opportunities, growing into responsible and contributing adults, and become leaders in their communities.

What started as a gang prevention program in one neighborhood has grown into one of the most comprehensive and respected youth development organizations in the country.  Read below or click here to learn more. [link to new page for what’s below?]

Key Milestones in BUILD’s History

1969: Founded to provide gang intervention and remediation

BUILD’s approach was to reach out to gang members by organizing recreational activities to keep them off the street, offer them support and positive role models, and show them more constructive ways to interact socially, thereby giving them opportunities to make positive life choices. Working in the streets, BUILD staff developed rapport with gang members, earned trust that could interrupt/deter specific acts of violence, and offered access to constructive activities, including athletics, cultural activities, drug treatment, and job training and placement.

1973: A Focus on Prevention

In 1973, BUILD began a Prevention program for pre-adolescents in the seventh and eighth grades. The agency realized the powerful influence that older youth were exerting over younger children and recognized the need to reach out to children before gang recruitment efforts succeeded. Formal services in and partnership with The Chicago Public Schools began in 1973 as BUILD was one of the first outside agencies to be invited into CPS.

Over time services expanded to include youth in the lower grades, generally down to the 5th grade. Through partnering with CPS, thousands of youth have been equipped, via BUILD’s best-practices Prevention Curriculum, with the tools necessary to avoid risk-taking behaviors, such as gang-involvement, violence, and substance abuse, by building upon youths’ individual assets, fostering positive peer support and interaction as well as engaging youth in activities that build healthy relationships with BUILD staff, their parents, and other positive community adults.

1982: Community Development and Partnerships

In the early 1980s, BUILD recognized that in addition to Remediation and Prevention, we needed to support local adults who were addressing community social problems that generally related to the quality of life for children and families.  BUILD realized from the beginning the value of collaborating with private organizations and public agencies ranging from citywide entities like The Chicago Public Schools to small community-based organizations. These partnerships allowed us to remain a non-building-centered, outreach agency, expanded available resources, avoided duplicating services, and enabled us to meet kids where they are and teach them how to use and respect resources and facilities in their own communities. Over time, BUILD has established partnerships with more than 100 organizations.

1993: BUILD Reaches Out to Juvenile-Justice-Involved Youth

In 1993, BUILD began using a modified Prevention program called Project BUILD. At the invitation of then-Cook County Board President Richard Phalen, BUILD began to provide violence remediation and community reintegration services at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (CCJTDC). These detained youth, many of whom committed violent offenses were at the threshold of losing control of their lives.   To help stabilize the youth, Project BUILD began incorporating community re-entry training to youth at CCJTDC. These trainings provided a life-skills curriculum covering: avoiding street gang recruitment/involvement; proper behaviors in public and private; violence prevention strategies; conflict resolution; drug prevention; techniques to handle peer pressure; “street law” (i.e., learning your rights, taking responsibility for your actions and their impact on others); decision making; communication skills; and goal setting — skills that help ensure asuccessful transition back into the community.

2000: Afterschool Programming Begins

At the turn of the millennium, BUILD began after-school programing in a community- based safe spaces, providing academic assistance and youth development in an environment where ethnic identity was respected and nurtured.  BUILD’s first after-school program was located at San Lucas Church, in the heart of the Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican community, and provided youth with a safe-space for academic assistance, life skills instruction to develop coping strategies, a support system for youth and their parents, and opportunity to develop self-esteem and affirm cultural identity with respect for diversity.

2003: College/Career Prep & Youth Leadership Development

In 2003, consensus was reached among stakeholders, including BUILD’s Board, key volunteers, staff, partnering agencies, and program participants, that the next logical steps for BUILD – and for the youth we serve – involved creating BUILDing Futures (now Education), a program initiative focused on bringing the “mainstream  dream” of college and career within the reach of highly at-risk kids.

Today, BUILD’s education programs continue to help prepare youth through a variety of services. We help youth gain access to college by working with middle and high school students on personal motivation, academic attainment, college admissions, financial aid, vocational training, and career exploration to keep them in the educational pipeline and enhance access to postsecondary opportunities.

2010: Sharing our Successful Model

After release of an RFP by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) listing BUILD as a “promising practice,” many inquiries regarding the BUILD Model and requests of professional development and/or technical assistance came in. Through this designation as a model program worthy of replication, BUILD has been able to partner with the Department of Mental Health in Minneapolis, Minnesota to replicate portions of the BUILD Model in that city. Subsequently that growing program reached out to BUILD to purchase our Leadership Development Curriculum to enhance their service capacity. In addition, agencies in Tucson, Arizona and Corpus Christi, Texas contacted BUILD regarding replication of our curriculum and our classroom-based programming. To deal with requests for model replication and technical assistance, our responses will fall under our BUILDing Communities Together initiative.

2012: BUILDing Healthy Futures

Continuing to address the fact that violence is a national public health concern with distinct health repercussions that disproportionally affect low-income communities, BUILD has continued to seek expanded, innovative ways to address issues of healthcare education access and community-based violence prevention in order to impact negative, risk-taking behaviors in the youth we serve.

Accordingly, BUILD has committed to address the issue of health and wellness for at-risk youth by establishing BUILDing Healthy Futures (BHF), a health and wellness initiative,which has three main project goals within our existing BUILD Model programs: The first goal of BHF is Prevention, providing age-appropriate health/nutrition education and safe physical/sports activity during after- and out-of-school time for at-risk youth. Intervention is the second goal of the program, providing culturally sensitive healthcare education, physical health assessments and case management for disease and obesity prevention.

And finally, BUILDing Communities by improving overall community health through a collaborative model focused on decreasing violence and addressing the social determinants that impact adolescent health.

BUILD’s Future – Our 2020 Vision

We remain committed to giving young people who face the greatest hurdles to success the support, direction and opportunities they need and deserve to reach their full potential.  That means sharing our model and success with others.  By 2020, BUILD will be recognized and sought out nationally as a premier provider of proven-effective youth development services targeted for at-risk youth and communities. BUILD’s youth will serve as ambassadors, living examples of how the BUILD Model transforms youth from “at-risk” to “at-hope” and, ultimately, to respected, contributing members of society.