ENGLEWOOD — In 2015, Glennell Fairley was held up as a model for the power of hard work. Mentorship and work programs helped lift him through high school and into college, where others called him a "shining example" for younger people.
On Saturday, he was shot to death while playing basketball with a 15-year-old boy.
Around 10:45 p.m., the two were playing in Ogden Park, in the 6500 block of South Racine Avenue, when gunshots rang out, police said.
The boy, who police said was gang-affiliated, was taken to Holy Cross Hospital with a gunshot wound in his arm.
Fairley, 21, was shot in his chest, police said. He was later pronounced dead.
Fairley had spent two summers working and taking classes through One Summer Chicago, the city's youth work program launched in 2012 and repeatedly expanded since then. He was placed at Each One Teach One, an Englewood-based literacy center, where he learned photography and took pictures of youths at their own work sites all over the city.
Not only did he excel at his job, but he made friends everywhere he went, according to Mike Jenkins, a counselor assigned to mentor Fairley during both summers.
"We was going and taking pictures of young people at all these different locations, and it seemed like he really enjoyed everyone he came across, and they liked him, too," Jenkins said. "He reported on time and did his job every single day, and he just had fun the whole time."
In February 2015, Fairley was chosen to speak alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel and basketball superstar Magic Johnson at an event promoting One Summer Chicago. His likeness was printed onto a life-sized advertisement for the initiative, which Johnson and Emanuel both signed.
Emanuel's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Fairley's death.
Fairley had "been touched by the juvenile justice system," Jenkins said, but didn't have specifics on how. He had no criminal record as an adult, court records show. Since then, he'd graduated Kenwood Academy High School and enrolled in classes at Daley College.
At one point during the program, Fairley was asked to visit Coleman Elementary Academy in Bronzeville, where he read to seventh- and eighth-graders and shared his experience with them.
"I'll never forget the way these kids' eyes were all just glued to him while he was talking," Jenkins said of the school visit. "It was a really powerful lesson about how even if you make a mistake, you can still go to school, get a job and everything. He was a shining example for them."
Fairley had also made a deep impact on Phalanx Family Services, a mentorship and job training group that helped him through his job placement.
The news of his death over the weekend rippled through the organization's staff and left them "heartbroken," Phalanx CEO Tina Sanders said.
"It's just too much," Sanders said, saying she remembered Fairley as an "outgoing and outspoken young man."
"Sometimes it just feels like a losing effort over here," she said.
Fairley was Phalanx's third mentee lost to gun violence in the past three years, Sanders said.
"This should be a wakeup call," she said. "There's something we're not doing for our young folks. We need a better plan, 'cause we're losing them too fast."
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