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South Shore Drill Team Wins Grant, Will Hire At-Risk Youths

By  Wendell Hutson and Ted Cox | June 26, 2013 8:29am 

 The South Shore Drill Team was among 11 organizations chosen for a summer grant by the Chicago Public Action safety Committee.
Drill Team
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GRAND CROSSING — The South Shore Drill Team, which is busy preparing for the annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic in August, said new grant money it was awarded Tuesday will enable the group to pay stipends to 10 of its members this summer.

The nonprofit organization will receive $28,135 from the Chicago Public Action Safety Committee, which announced Tuesday it plans to distribute $1.7 million from private donations to 11 organizations whose focus on helping at-risk youths. Sixty organizations applied for the summer grants; another round of grants are expected to be distributed this fall, according to the mayor's office.

The members on the South Shore Drill Team will work for six hours a day from July 1 to Aug. 9 for $8.25 an hour.

The drill team already pays stipends to some members who are between ages 18 and 24, but those are mostly members who have been with the organization for a long time, according to Sara Vlajcic, administrator coordinator for the South Shore Drill Team.

The new hires will be mainly drill team members with a troubled past, such as those with a criminal background.

For the drill team, the summer grant came just in time.

"We have 275 youth that are drill team members and this money affords us the ability to pay stipends to 10 youth to work with our sound crew. Music is a big part of our performances so there's a need for more youth in that area," Vlajcic said.

Vlajcic said the positions could help troubled youths, especially boys.

"The two things many of our boys lack is a male role model at home and jobs."

And while the drill team has both male and female members, Vlajcic said 60 percent of its members are black males, so it mainly focuses on that group.

"We look at who is being killed and who is doing the shooting, and it's not the girls," she added. "Every youth needs some pocket money. When youth have your own money, it's less likely you will be tempted to do illegal things to get money."

At a Tuesday City Hall news conference announcing the grant distributions, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "You can never go wrong by investing in the children of the city of Chicago."

Chairmen of the Public Action Safety Committee, which has raised $42 million thus far to help at-risk youths, are Jim Reynolds, chairman of Loop Capital Markets and Tom Wilson, CEO of Allstate Insurance Company.

“Youth throughout Chicago should be spending their summers building friendships and futures, not worrying about danger in their neighborhoods,” Wilson said at the news conference. “These grants are the committee’s initial investment in neighborhoods throughout Chicago, with a particular focus on character development, conflict resolution and employment opportunities.”

Wilson added that other neighborhoods expected to benefit from the grants include Englewood, Chatham, South Chicago, Avalon Park, Roseland and West Pullman.