Connecting Youth Across Neighborhoods Through Sports Tournament

April 24, 2019

Teams compete at the cross-city basketball tournament in January.

The Adler University Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice recently brought together youth from Community Restorative Justice Hubs and other partner agencies across Chicago to participate in a cross-city basketball tournament.

The Community Restorative Justice Hubs and partner agencies are neighborhood organizations that the Institute collaborates with to offer trauma-informed alternatives to detention for youth and young adults in some of the most criminalized communities in Chicago.

Many of the organizations have ongoing sports and activity programs, but they all come together twice a year, in the summer and winter, for a larger sports academy. The goal is for the youth, especially those identified as at-risk, to have an opportunity to connect to peers across different neighborhoods and engage them in a positive way.

“The youth often get siloed into their respective neighborhoods,” said Elena Quintana, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Institute. “Many of them are also involved in gangs or at-risk, so we are trying to engage them in positive activities and also encourage them to interact with their peers across Chicago.”

This was the first year for the cross-city tournament. The winter event, held January 26, had 150 participants across six community agencies.

“The cross-city collaboration tournament creates an opportunity for young people to come together and foster bonds they otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to,” said Jorge Matos, Director of Violence Prevention for the Alliance of Local Service Organizations. “This allows for youth to build relationships across the different neighborhoods and gain mutual respect for one another.”

Youth and young adults 12 to 21 played in the basketball tournament, divided into two leagues by age, with a winning team celebrated for each. Participation was open to all youth involved in the programs.

“The basketball tournament keeps us positive and keeps teenagers off the street, drug free, and out of trouble,” a 15-year-old participant said. “It gives us an opportunity to go participate and play ball and have a good time.”

Congratulations to the winning teams: Alliance of Local Service Organizations and New Life Centers of Chicago Land, Little Village!