When Chicago Program Director Steve Gates speaks, listeners learn the true meaning of YAP's motto: strengthening communities, one biography at a time.
Steve chooses to live in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood where he grew up, an area still plagued by crime and violence. "Maybe you can't be Barack Obama or maybe you won't be an astronaut, but you can go to college and you can help some kids. You can do what I do," Steve said in an NPR interview.
Steve's descriptions of the people who live in and around his neighborhood reflect loyalty, respect and a fierce determination to help his community.
"They are up against all sorts of odds and still fight to survive," Steve said of his community's residents at a Congressional briefing on September 10, 2014. "They are living under third world conditions. The violence and crimes are symptoms of larger societal issues. The people are being warehoused in jails, and are currently having two wars waged against them simultaneously. The black and brown youth are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. The families are frustrated and experience hopelessness at times."
The troubling issues he sees are exactly why Steve stays in Roseland."I think, a lot of times when people are successful that they equate being successful with living at a different address. But I also think that leaves a gap that doesn't give these young men and women the proper example that they need," he told NPR hosts.