Johnson joined Mark and Kimbra Walter of the Inner City Youth Empowerment in a collaboration that will help triple the reach of the One Chicago Summer Plus program.
Its primary focus is to guide youths ages 16 to 19 away from potential troubles that come on the streets of inner-city Chicago.
“We are proud to partner on an initiative that has proven to change the trajectory of at-risk kids’ lives,” Johnson said in a press release. “Providing disadvantaged kids with alternatives is a step in the right direction toward helping them reach their full potential and curb violence in our neighborhoods.”
Johnson’s contribution highlights the former NBA great’s philanthropic work since retiring from professional basketball. He’s been a benchmark for other athletes, like Jordan, to study after their careers are completed.
Johnson’s business enterprises are extensive, and most of them have elements of providing jobs, upward mobility and upgraded services for African-Americans.
Hardly anyone talks about Johnson having contracted HIV in 1991, setting in motion the end of one of the sport’s great careers. Since then, Johnson has been recognized as an advocate for the disease and an entrepreneur with an amazing portfolio. He’s also part of a group that owns the Los Angeles Dodgers and has a net worth estimated at $500 million, according to celebritynetworth.com.
He was beloved as a player because of the infectious, child-like joy in which he performed but should be admired for the non-stop work he does in Black communities. In the case of Chicago, Johnson has no real connection—he’s from Lansing, Mich. and has lived in Los Angeles ever since he was drafted No. 1 by the Lakers in 1979.
The only connection is that Johnson identified a dire need and did something to help. Admirable.
This program in Chicago that served 1,000 teenagers will serve 3,000 now. The program includes a 25-hour-a-week summer job, a mentor and a behavioral therapy and social-skills building component.
The One Chicago Summer Plus program outlines criteria for students, as it targets those who have a past with the juvenile justice system and those who have missed six to eight weeks of school.
The program spends roughly $2,900 per student, which equates to nearly triple the amount that is traditionally spent on summer job programs.
The city of Chicago is also contributing an additional $6 million to the program, with some of the funds going toward training and supporting 500 mentors so that the increase in students into the program does not compromise the quality and personal contact participants receive.
“The city of Chicago, with the support of our community and business partners, remains committed to reducing violence in our city,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in Black Enterprise. “Through the generous grant, more youth will stay safe, active and engaged this summer while getting the skills and on-the-job training necessary for a bright future.”
High unemployment is directly linked to higher incarceration rates. Studies indicate 92 percent of Black males between the ages of 16-19 in Chicago are unemployed, which impacts the city’s high crime and incarceration rates. All this illuminates how important programs like this are—and how committed someone like Magic Johnson is.