WASHINGTON PARK — Since their 15-year-old daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, was killed earlier this year, Nathaniel Pendleton and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton have become advocates for stronger gun control laws, started a foundation in their daughter's name, celebrated what would have been her 16th birthday and partnered with organizations to help at-risk youths.
The Pendletons joined the Rev. Torrey Barrett, executive director of the Keep Loving Each Other Community Family Life Center, 119 E. Garfield Blvd., last week to announce the launch of the group's "Piece of the Peace Summer Youth Campaign." The program will provide 225 jobs to young people this summer, including 125 specifically for those with criminal records.
"We have partnered with several organizations and companies like T.J. Maxx, the Chicago Urban League and Rainbow/PUSH, who have agreed to hire our youth for the summer," Barrett said. Youths in the program between 16 and 24 years old will work 25 to 30 hours a week and be paid $9 an hour.
Activities will include sports, poetry, mentoring, day camp and karaoke every Friday evening.
Elijah Johnson, 18, is one of the youths the program aims to help.
"Before I joined the program I was headed in the wrong direction," said Johnson, who lives in South Shore. "There were days when I did not know which direction I was gonna go. Being a part of this program has given me hope and has kept me straight."
Cleopatra Pendleton said she and her husband are always looking for good causes to support, and the KLEO center stood out to them.
"It's all about teamwork. When you find an organization that supports what you believe in, you support them," Cleopatra said. "The KLEO center is no stranger to helping at-risk youth, and we felt it was important to link up with as many organizations as we can that stand for what we believe in, and that's opportunities for youth."
Nathaniel said he wants to concentrate on boys because he feels that group makes up most at-risk youths.
"So many young, black men are being killed left and right. Some for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Nathaniel said. "If we do not give youth something to do this summer, they will find something to do, and more than likely it won't be something good."
To honor their daughter's memory and to carry out her passion to help people, Cleopatra said in April they started the Hadiya Pendleton Foundation, which will offer scholarships, mentorship and after-school programs.
"We are currently looking for a headquarters for the foundation as we await final approval from the state on our [nonprofit status] application," Cleopatra said. Hadiya "is probably smiling down on us, knowing we are working to keep her vision alive."
Joining Barrett and the Pendletons at the news conference were Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), Roderick Hawkins, a Chicago Urban League vice president, and members of the Becoming A Man program.
McCarthy said youth violence is a problem that police should not have to solve all by themselves.
"Everyone must get involved. Parents, community members, schools and, yes, the police. I used to think it was bad parenting that led to so much youth violence, but not anymore," McCarthy said. "In the two years I have been [in Chicago], I have come to realize that youth violence is bigger than the Chicago police."