YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative

Urban Warriors is a program of the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative (YSVP). Urban Warriors provides a structured curriculum-based program, that pairs experienced veterans with youth exposed to violence in some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. These two groups share common life experiences–surviving in hostile environments and striving to cope. Together, they discuss and process their experiences with violence, develop and share coping skills, and identify the strengths they have developed and how they can channel them to benefit their communities. This trauma-informed approach fosters a unique supportive relationship between military veterans and youth.

Researchers have reflected on the striking parallels between the experiences of child soldiers around the world and gang members in the United States; accordingly, the many lessons learned from international child soldier research may also apply to gang members in the United States (Kerig, Wainryb, Twali, & Chalpo, 2013).

Of the 41 youth who participated in a recent cohort pre-assessment, 22 answered “yes” when asked if they had “ever been in a place where a war was going on around them”, and 36 responded “yes” when asked whether they had “seen or heard about the violent death of a loved one”. In many youth, these experiences cause reactions that parallel many of the post-traumatic stress symptoms that veterans experience. Learn More