Leaders Investing for Equality (LIFE) Campaign

The LIFE Campaign is a community organizing collaborative, co-convened by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council. The LIFE Campaign is working to address the root causes of violence in our communities by pushing for policies at the city and state levels that promote the systematic investment in young people, particularly low-income youth of color, as opposed to the criminalization and incarceration of youth.

At a time of record youth homicide rates, the LIFE Campaign is working to address the root causes of violence in our communities by pushing for policies at the city and state levels that promote the systematic investment in young people, particularly low-income youth of color, as opposed to the criminalization and incarceration of youth. The Campaign recently held a youth town hall with over 150 parents and students from 11 organizations across the city to discuss issues of violence and to coalesce around a common youth investment agenda.

Moving forward, the Campaign is planning to have a series of public actions, coupled with the strategic release of data and research. Through these actions, youth and parents will call on the Mayor and local aldermen to make a greater public investment in youth employment programs as one of the most critical forms of youth investment, keeping young people off the streets, learning valuable job skills, and contributing to their family incomes in this time of economic crisis.

Over the last three years, the LIFE campaign has played an active role securing the creation of summer job opportunities at the state level, and making improvements to the structure of these youth employment programs to ensure they are best serving the neighborhood youth most in need of these programs. In July 2010, the LIFE campaign successfully organized to help pass the Community Youth Employment Act, a state law that would create 5,000 summer jobs for youth ages 14-21 annually. While the LIFE Campaign was not able to secure full funding for these jobs due to the State’s fiscal crisis, the Campaign was able to successfully push for the creation of 2500 and 1900 youth jobs in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The LIFE campaign has also been able to push for structural changes in each year’s summer jobs programs; particularly the adoption of the program design for which we advocated.

After successfully organizing to win passage of Public Act 1225 (Community Youth Investment Act) in the State legislature in July 2010 for additional resources to fund summer jobs for youth throughout Illinois, the youth leaders set their sights on winning appropriations for the Act. Through ardent negotiations with Governor Quinn’s office over the past two years, Dr. Toni Irving (Gov. Quinn’s Deputy Chief of Staff) authorized a pilot project in Chicago utilizing the program design of Public Act 1225 this past Summer. After finding the program to be extremely successful, LIFE was invited to participate in forming a task force to determine how this program will be implemented statewide for the Summer of 2013; and Governor Quinn allocated $14M in the budget he submitted to the Illinois State Legislature for summer youth employment. Through consistent work with our state legislators over the course of this legislative session, both houses passed a budget that kept the $14M in – despite funding cuts to nearly every state program.