BUILD’s second annual Summer of Opportunity street festival was a great success as more than 2,500 Austin residents, community leaders, anti-violence groups and community organizations came together for an exciting day of celebration.
Activities included live entertainment, art projects, 3-on-3 basketball, a climbing wall, bounce houses, Project Exploration STEM Fair, Loretto Hospital Health Village and much more.
The day opened with 15th District Police Commander Ernest Cato and State Representative Camille Lilly addressing the crowd, followed by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, who cited the event as an example of what is possible when many partners work together.
“Today is about connecting youth, family, and community to support young people and prevent violence,” said Senator Durbin. “For kids to reach their full potential—and live happy, healthy, and productive lives—we need after-school and community programs that build skills and provide mentorship. I’m proud to support BUILD in their work across Chicago, and I am fighting in Washington to expand their models nationwide.”
The Summer of Opportunity festival served as a send off for the BUILD community as it wrap up its summer programs and families get ready to send their kids back to school.
Latee, a 17-year-old BUILD participant who attended the festival, is getting ready to start his junior year of high school. He spent his summer working through One Summer Chicago, a program that works with BUILD to help teens find summer jobs.
Latee’s job revolved around organizing sports leagues this summer, an opportunity he may not have had without BUILD.
“They keep me doing positive things with my life,” Latee said. “I used to be in the streets myself, but I started coming here and they started putting money in my pocket and that got me out of the streets. So I come here so I can still be doing positive things with my life.”
Kevin, an Intervention Specialist at BUILD, spent the day assisting with the 3-on-3-basketball tournament. He grew up around BUILD as a youth participant and, like Latee, is thankful for the summer opportunities BUILD provided him.
“Last year I did One Summer Chicago, and they put me to work in the summer camp and they liked the way I worked so much at the end of the summer they got me an actual job,” said Kevin. “I work for a school now doing security.”
Attendees of Summer of Opportunity also had an opportunity to honor victims of gun violence throughout the day by writing messages and expressing themselves on BUILD’s Peace Wall. As the event came to an end, a moment of silence was taken to remember victims of violence and was followed by a balloon launch into the sky to offer up thoughts and prayers.
“It’s important to honor the beauty, strength, and talent of the people of Austin — especially the youth who represent our future,” said Bradly Johnson, an Austin native who leads BUILD’s gang intervention, violence prevention, and education programs. “It’s not news that low-income youth can easily get in trouble with gangs. Most of the assets we need to address violence are already here, and hundreds of people are working hard to weave them together to create opportunities for young people.”
Strong support from business, community, and public sector partners was a major driver of the event’s success. Breakthru Beverage Illinois, which spearheaded the first Summer of Opportunity in 2017, inaugural event, repeated its lead sponsorship role and organized over 150 volunteers.
“Today’s event is amazing because it brings the whole neighborhood, the community, the business owners, the moms, the pops, the kids together – for one occasion and that’s just love and greatness.” said Arick, an Education Outreach Specialist at BUILD. “Whenever we come together in unity, it’s always a great day.”