This summer, teens and young adults in Austin will be able to enjoy multiple events and activities organized by the 15th Police District and community partners.
Events for Memorial Day weekend (May 28-30), a date that traditionally marks the start of summer and an uprise in violent crimes, were announced at the 15th District’s faith leaders’ monthly meeting.
On Memorial Day weekend, young people who participated in the 15th District’s Police Explorers spring program will be eligible to attend a camping trip in Woodhaven Lakes in western Illinois. Teens will enjoy activities such as fishing, swimming, and painting, said William Martinez, police officer and youth liaison.
The Police Explorers is a program that connects teens ages 10-24 with their local police officers. Following the Boys Scouts model, the youngest teens —10 to 13 — explore what a career as a police officer looks like, receive basic training and are also introduced to careers in fire rescue, government, journalism and medicine. Teenagers can then join the Explorers programs that best interests them, including the 15th District’s Explorers.
Teens ages 13-24 who participate in the 15th District Explorers learn more about law enforcement from police officers. They learn procedures such as finger printing and visit the police academy to see how officers are trained. Meeting weekly, they also engage with their peers and participate in other youth programs led by the 15th District, such as Hip Hop Tuesdays.
The 15th District Police Explorers’ summer program starts on June 15th. It will include a 24-hour camping trip at Columbus Park open to Austin residents that will take place by the end of summer.
Also during Memorial Day weekend, Austin youth and adults will be able to participate in faith-based community eventsm such as peace circles, prayer hours, music, worship and outside service, organized as part of Hands Across Chicago.
This is a citywide faith-based initiative promoting peace that brings together faith organizations and the city’s 22 police districts to occupy spaces that have previously been identified as “hot spots,” said Dorin “Pastor Mac” McIntyre of Mount Olivet Missionary Baptist Church.
Sgt. Darrick Scott said the event ties into the mobilization activities that has 15th District police officers out in the streets engaging with community members, a strategy to prevent violence in Austin.
Other activities for Austin’s young people will continue to take place throughout the summer.
Once a month, SLAM brings together about 70 teens with mentors, including teachers, ministers and other community leaders, who participate in games, team sports, Bible teachings and small group discussions. This summer, SLAM will be meeting weekly on Mondays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., said SLAM director Will Wagner.
Kids and teens can also attend the 15th Police District’s weekly youth mentoring and tutoring program, which provides a safe space for youth to gather, get support to complete their homework and play games in the 15th District’s community room, at 5701 W. Madison St. Game consoles like Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch are available, along with a basketball ring, giant boardgames and other table games young people like to play, Martinez said.
“The kids work hard, right? So if they raise their grades or keep their grades at an honorable level, they get to add something new to the program,” Martinez said.
In the last three years, they’ve added table tennis, an air hockey table and a hot shot basketball game.
Job opportunities with the 15th District also are available for young adults through One Summer Chicago. Young adults ages 16-24 can join the Youth District Advisory Council to work as advocates for their community and partner with the police department to find solutions to the challenges they face.
“They are the voice of the youth for the community, so if there is something that they feel they wanna change in their community, it’s led by them. I just get them help in the door,” Martinez said.
Youth also work to help spread the word to their peers about the opportunities and great organizations available to them in Austin, he said.
For more information about the 15th Police District’s youth programs, contact the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy office at 312-743-1495.
To learn more about Hands Across Chicago, visit their website.