In many communities across the US, youth violence and gang recruitment are an epidemic — driving young people toward aggressive behavior and participation in risky, violent and often illegal activities.
BUILD, Inc. — or Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development — is working to change this. Founded in 1969, the nationally respected gang intervention, violence prevention and youth development organization supports nearly 6,500 young people and families facing the greatest systemic challenges on Chicago’s West Side.
BUILD organizes its programming across six areas: intervention, prevention, education, enrichment, clinical and community wellness and community engagement. From conflict resolution and violence interruption to after school programs and clinical treatments for mental health and trauma, the organization takes a holistic approach to providing integrated services that inspire hope and offer opportunities for youth facing systemic obstacles — 79% of whom have experienced community violence, and 48% of whom have witnessed a shooting.
For the 2021-2022 school year, TransUnion provided a contribution in support of BUILDing Girls 2 Women (BG2W), BUILD’s wellness program for female-identifying youth who’ve been impacted by violence or trauma. First launched in 2017, the one-year intensive program is for middle and high schoolers, and combines mentoring, mental health care, gang interventions and other general life support to engage highly at-risk teens in the path to a more positive future.
The BG2W program is comprehensive, providing a holistic support system for its young participants. Each student receives access to one therapist and one program specialist, as well as the opportunity to meet weekly with their clinical group, mentoring group and individual mentor. Additionally, program leaders engage students in several hands-on activities, like field trips and college visits.
“BUILD’s young people need someone to trust them. They’re looking for someone to see the darkness they are feeling, but they want you to bring light into that,” says Khaliah Marsh, who leads BG2W. “They want you to be there for their journey, to have no judgment – and light up their inner childhood. A space to be their authentic selves.”
BUILD operates BG2W across six organizations in the Austin and Humboldt Park neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side: two high schools, two middle schools and two community groups. TransUnion’s grant has supported multiple program costs, including college assistance payments, school or relocation expenses, external workshop fees, summer employment stipends, and additional food and travel needs.
The impact of BUILD’s programs runs deep, instilling hope in young people and driving positive change for their futures. In 2021, all young people engaged in BUILD’s prevention services avoided gang involvement — while 93% of youth who had previously been either suspended or expelled from school reported a decrease in further disciplinary actions. Moreover, 96% of youth engaged in BUILD programming reported healthier conflict resolution skills, and 94% reported increased ability to handle emotions.
“BUILD has honestly made me more comfortable with myself,” shared Carmen, a BG2W program participant. “When I accepted the summer program in eighth grade, I started to like it even more. It was fun having an hour of my day at school for talking about things with other girls.”
For TransUnion, supporting BUILD’s clinical and community wellness programs was an opportunity to shine a light on BUILD’s efforts to generate long-term, community-driven change.
“Our commitment to racial and gender equity extends beyond our organization and into the many communities where our associates live and work,” said Teedra Bernard, TransUnion’s Chief Talent and Diversity Officer. “We’re proud to support BUILD as they do tremendous work on the ground to create a safe and empowering environment for Chicago’s young people to thrive. By listening, supporting and amplifying the important assets of Chicago’s West Side neighborhoods, BUILD is creating stronger communities.”