In Boston, according to the police and public health commission, 50% of gun violence is driven by approximately 450 young people. In Philadelphia, it’s 1,100. In Chicago, as tragic as the numbers are, it’s only 2,000. As overwhelming as the problem of street violence can seem, by reaching a few hundred we can have a profound impact on individuals and entire communities.
We work with this group of young people to reduce violence, and through our career track in personal training create economic mobility as they start making $20-$60 per hour training clients from opposite socioeconomic backgrounds. As important, it bridges social capital and creates a genuine form of inclusion that disrupts the system of segregation and isolation that leads to the streets. Most of our students have been shot, nearly all have done significant jail time and come from family incomes of less than $10K.
Through the gym, we’re able to address the risk factors, starting with trust, hope, and a positive network of peers. Whereas our students’ 6-month outlook on life starts with death or jail, it shifts to pursuing an education, finding a meaningful career, and enjoying a future that wasn’t always guaranteed.
In addition to careers, our model helps disrupt a system that plagues entire communities. I was born into a family and community with connections and opportunity. Everyone I knew went to school, my focus growing up. I leveraged an education to find a meaningful career, and all along the way I was labeled a good decision maker, but I only had good options to choose from.
Our students, however, are born into families and communities that are segregated and isolated. Unlike myself, they need to worry about rent, food, and clothes. There’s no way that school can be their focus. They take to the streets to solve for the challenges they face today. Rather than finding a meaningful career, they find themselves in jail. They come out more segregated, isolated. They’re labeled bad decision makers, but they only have bad options to choose from. This system is perpetuated as we’re told to avoid certain people, certain communities.
Perhaps, for a problem rooted in segregation and isolation, our solution shouldn’t be to segregate and isolate people, first by circumstance, then by prison.
A LETTER FROM OUR FOUNDER
Or to spend $64B a year on prisons to punish decisions when the decision wasn’t the problem, it was the options.Consequences are needed, but it can’t be more of the same. Our model connects people, creates good options, economic growth, and helps communities benefit from opportunity.
An internal review of our program demonstrated, using the most conservative metrics, that by reducing recidivism and promoting employment, we have generated a 3x return for every dollar donated to the program. A more holistic ROI, may be greater than 22:1 as the cost savings of stopping just one homicide is $17M.
Our goals are big and ambitious. We aim to fundamentally change the way we as a society interact with each other, and to reframe the issue, while leveraging local/ individual impact to create national/societal change. Through the growth of our program, and bridging social capital, we are able to shift perceptions and change narratives. In doing so, we give people the resolve to connect with each other rather than to avoid. We want to help create a more inclusive United States, where safety and opportunity are accessible to all. We have a vision where the networks among the most affluent residents of US cities are able and willing to connect with some of the most underserved communities of those cities.