Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Teen participants in the HELP project join Commissioner Richard Boykin in showing off the Chill Austin poster they helped design
to combat violence in their community. (Photo by Brad)
    In the fall of 2016, The Prevention Partnership, Inc., in collaboration with the Austin Coalition for Healthy Lifestyles, was awarded a $40.000 grant from the Cook County Justice Advisory Council to implement the youth-driven Healthy Educational Lifestyle Project (HELP). The target population is Austin community youth ages 13-19, with the intent of strategically and effectively reducing the incidence of violence by utilizing youth as change agents to educate their peers and help solve the problem. There are three components to the HELP Initiative’s comprehensive methodology, which include the Youth Prevention Education or Peer Leadership social-emotional life skills training of the core group, Peer-led Outreach Training to the community at-large in the areas of anger management, conflict resolution and refusal skills, in addition to a Communication Campaign. Youth are paid a stipend for their participation. The Prevention Partnership, Inc. developed this innovative approach under the leadership of co-founders Luther Syas and Albert L. Orsello, President & CEO, and Marketing Specialist Adam L. Bates. Syas serves as the Outreach Coordinator on the HELP Initiative. For over 30 years, the agency has contributed to the well-being of the Austin community through education, prevention, and health promotion efforts.
    The Cook County Justice Advisory Council (JAC) awards grants in the areas of Violence Prevention, Recidivism Reduction, and Restorative Justice. The JAC seeks to address the needs of those who have had contact with the juvenile/adult criminal justice systems and prevent further system involvement through intervention.
    On Saturday, December 17, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin personally visited the Peer Leadership training site at West Side Health Authority to congratulate the youth Peer Health Educators and to attend the rollout of the Communication Campaign. The HELP Initiative is one phase of the Chill Austin strategy to equip youth and families with the skill set to resolve conflict and confront angry emotions before they lead to violent activity. This is phase 2 of the HELP Initiative; the phase 1 or pilot component was launched in 2013 and was supported by a $25,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services. Youth participants for the core group were selected from dance team Final Xplosion and West Side Health Authority.
    For more information about The Prevention Partnership, Inc. HELP Initiative or the Justice Advisory Council of Cook County’s Violence Prevention Programs, contact Al Orsello at 773/378-4195, ext. 16.

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