Parents Taking Back Their Communities

By: Ashmar Mandou

 Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Parent Leadership in Action (PLAN) is searching for parents interested in making their community stronger through peer-to-peer outreach. For more information about the program, call 773-227-2880.

A new initiative is giving parents across the city of Chicago a chance to take back their communities from gang violence and build a stronger support network to save youth. “This is an exciting time for us,” said Carmen Gutierrez, administrative coordinator for Build Inc., an organization designed to engage at-risk youth by providing prevention and intervention programs to help youth reach their full potential. The new initiative titled The Parent Leadership in Action (PLAN), an element of the Governor’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI), aims to increase adult engagement and leadership by conducting parent-to-parent community outreach.

PLAN intends to change the dialogue and begin to ‘recover from decades of violence.’ “So many parents are facing challenges, so many are struggling to raise their teens,” said Gutierrez. “But no one talks about it. Some parents feel ashamed and see counseling as a weakness. Through the PLAN initiative we want to redefine what it means to be engaged with our children and with other parents.” Gutierrez discussed the important elements of PLAN and how she believes it will transform neighborhoods across the city.

Launch of PLAN
PLAN is part of the Neighborhood Recovering Initiative, which is a program that was established out of Governor Quinn’s administration, to help improve 23 communities across Chicago. There are four different components to NRI, which deal with mentoring, reentry, school-based counseling, and adult engagement. PLAN is a project that is structured to engage parents through a peer-to-peer outreach to talk about parenting skills and techniques and to educate parents on dealing with stressors. The project also helps parents to cope with difficult situations through weekly training sessions. This type of program provides a positive environment and successful tools for all parents.

Taking Back the Village

I grew up in a time when everyone knew their neighbors. There were no strangers on our block, no fences, and no barriers of any kind. It was a time when adults made an effort to go out of their homes and get to know one another. Kids weren’t afraid to walk anywhere…a time when kids could just be kids and enjoy. Now, many people are so closed off and afraid to step outside of their comfort zone. There is so much judgment and an unwillingness to engage. We know it is a very thin and scary line we have to cross everyday, in terms of gang violence, but we are here to say that no problem is unique to one person. I think if we just walk outside our fences and just say hello to anyone and everyone and be willing to make people feel a part of the community…I think by doing that small step we can help change our environment.

PLAN Training

Parents are going to be talking about their own experiences. The major thing is that this program is going to hire parents, who have experience raising children, to share their tools that will help other parents better their parenting technique. This program will help build leaders and create activism within their community. This is a really exciting exchange. Parents can learn from one another and not be so afraid anymore to share their problems. If you are interested in joining the PLAN team, you are first required to attend an orientation session. The sessions will take place on Thursday, May 19 at IPRAC, 3015 W. Division at 5pm; Monday, May 23 at Piccolo School, 1040 N. Keeler at 3pm; and Wednesday, May 25 at Orr High School, 730 N. Pulaski Rd., at 4:30pm. Space is limited. Participants interested may call Carmen Gutierrez at 773-227-2880 or For more information, visit

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