Kellogg Foundation awards $1M grant to invest in Chicago youth leadership, mental health

Charitable Contribution money

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Kellogg Foundation has awarded a a one-year $1 million planning grant to a partnership between a Chicago hospital and a local community group that want to transform some struggling neighborhoods.

Communities United, in partnership with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, is the only Chicago-based finalist of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Equity 2030 Challenge, an open call for bold solutions to drive an equitable future for children, families and communities across the globe.

Lurie Children’s Hospital and Communities United have been working together for years on issues like mental health and equity.

But, Dr. John Walkup, Chair of the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said this is about turning trauma into action, one young person at a time.

"A lot of youth get really busy working on the things that impacted them when they were growing up, and they work for change within their community that they will get better and their communities will get better and break the cycle," Dr. Walkup said.

The community organization and hospital will bring together the expertise, experience, and leadership of grassroots Black and Brown young people from across Chicago alongside national leaders and practitioners in the field of mental health, partnering to expand leadership among Black and Brown youth and advance healing-centered communities. The partnership's goals are to: transform the mental health system, from one that focuses on individual treatment to one that supports community healing; and, develop leadership of young people as practitioners of health, healing and advocates for systemic change to address racial inequities.

Dr. Walkup said the Kellogg Foundation has awarded a grant to a partnership that takes people who’ve suffered trauma, and trains them to solve their own neighborhood’s problems.

"What the kids have told us is that by becoming active with the training they get from Communities United to work at the problems within their communities that affects them and their friends and their family, that they actually heal themselves and at the same time heal their communities," he said.

Laqueanda Reneau, a community organizer at Communities United, said it’s important for young people to help shape their neighborhood transformations.

“Young people who have been through Communities United’s Healing through Justice leadership development model have discovered that when they take action for change, that process in itself creates opportunities for individuals and our community to heal from trauma,” Reneau said.

"The solutions are already within their head, because it's something they have been living through, it's something that we have seen in our communities as well," she said.

The million dollar Kellogg grant, she said, will allow the partnership to help more people and their neighborhoods.

Through a healing-centered approach, young people from CU and partners from across the West and South sides of the city, in partnership with Lurie Children’s will create a 10-year roadmap to foster youth-led strategies on community healing that centers youth leadership in creating institutional change.