Transforming Young Lives Since 1969

BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development) is one of Chicago's leading gang intervention, violence prevention, and youth development organizations. Our mission is to inspire hope and offer opportunities so youth facing systemic obstacles can achieve positive futures.

We focus on hard-to-serve youth in some of Chicago’s most challenging neighborhoods.

Legacy of Innovation

Since 1969, BUILD has helped thousands of young people transform their lives, and today reaches over 6,500 youth and families a year with caring adult mentors and a rich variety of experiences in the arts, athletics, college & career preparation, entrepreneurship, leadership development, technology, and mental health programing.

Our model blends the best practices of restorative justice, conflict mediation, prevention, development, and behavioral health, and is designated an evidence-based Effective Program by the US Dept. of Justice.

In May 2019, BUILD celebrated 50 years as a life changing Chicago institution. As we move into a new era, we invite you to learn about BUILD's legacy and get involved.


Start early to stop gang recruitment

Tapping the power of older teens to influence younger peers, in 1973 BUILD launched its Gang Prevention program to reach youth before gangs could recruit them. Classroom lessons combined with sports, homework help, and mentoring provided safe alternatives to the streets and tools to resist violence, drugs, and gangs. As success grew, BUILD became one of the first outside agencies to be invited into the Chicago Public Schools.


BUILD offers programs at 15 schools in six of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods as well as the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and BUILD's Austin campus.


Community alliances for positive change

As street crime increased, BUILD began sharing our passion for positive change with neighborhood adults. Our new Community Resources Development program mobilized, trained, and coordinated residents to work against gang violence.

Partnerships were forged with social service providers to address unmet needs. When parents and community groups from other neighborhoods asked for help, we organized educational workshops and provided technical assistance. We expanded our work with law enforcement and the courts, offering BUILD as an alternative to incarceration for troubled youth. Our programs have evolved over the years, but community collaboration will forever be the BUILD way.


BUILD partners with more than 100 organizations every year.


A better path for incarcerated teens

As harsh laws pushed more youth into the justice system, BUILD helped incarcerated teens reclaim their lives. In 1993, Project BUILD launched inside Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, introducing innovative new practices to help youth learn from past mistakes, develop positive life skills, and successfully transition back into the world. Recidivism among these youth dropped to less than half the state average, earning BUILD the US Department of Justice's highest recognition as an evidence-based "Effective Program".


Police, prosecutors, and probation officials routinely choose BUILD as an alternative to incarceration. Youth rarely let us down.


Opening doors to college and career

BUILD welcomed the millennium by raising the bar to equip at-risk youth for lifelong success. At Humboldt park's San Lucas Church, our academic support programs brought in resources seldom available to inner city youth. In 2003, our visionary BUILDing Futures program offered the mainstream dream of college and career to young people few believed could succeed, including teen moms and formerly incarcerated youth. They defied the odds, and barriers began to fall.


Each year, BUILDing Futures prepares more than 500 youth for post-secondary success. Staff are developing innovative new programs to extend college & career support to every BUILD participant.


New solutions for an epidemic of violence

As violence grew to a national health concern, in 2012 BUILD responded to BUILDing Healthy Futures -promoting health lifestyles through knowledge, nutrition, physical activity, and social emotional learning.

When Chicago's violence began to rise, BUILD zeroed on the greatest needs, moving our headquarters to Austin, and expanding our work in Humboldt Park and other West and South Side neighborhoods. Since 2016, BUILD has doubled in scope and impact, launching a reinvented Clinical Health & Wellness department to provide trauma-informed therapy and adding Enrichment programs to bring art, technology, and leadership training to more youth.


The Iris, our campus farm, brings fresh food, job experiences, and hands-on learning into the broader community.

"Let's look at youth as individuals, see where they are. Then let's tailor-make the program for their growth, and the growth of the community."
- Bob Jemilo, Founding Director


Our People

BUILD is about relationships. The relationships we develop with our youth, and the ones we model in front of them, are as important to their success as any program or intervention we provide.

We build the kind of trust and lasting bonds that kids need to know they have an advocate, a support system and people with high expectations for them.


Challenged Communities, Promising Kids

We work in some of our city’s most challenged and under-resourced neighborhoods--Austin, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Hermosa/Logan Square, and Fuller Park—because we believe every young person in every neighborhood deserves every chance

Relationships, Opportunity, Support

BUILD provides the people, programs and pathways our young people need to reject gang involvement, violence, dropping out of school and giving up on a meaningful future.


Our Impact

BUILD gets results. Regular program participants show increases in all of the following:

  • Deterred/decreased negative behaviors
  • Increased pro-social behaviors
  • Social mobility
  • Post-secondary success
  • Civic activism

BUILD something AMAZING with us!

BUILD supports Chicago’s most vulnerable youth: with street violence prevention and intervention, out-of-school activities, summer camps, mental health care, educational support, and much more. We reach 6,500+ young people each year, most of whom fall outside society’s safety net. They face more obstacles than ever - help us sustain the support they need. Be a guest, be a donor, be a fundraiser – be a BUILDer!