The Evanston community is still trying to heal from the violence of late September that saw an Evanston youth killed, allegedly by another resident of Evanston, himself only a young man.
The catastrophe has taken the life of Dajae Coleman and affect the life of the alleged killer. The cycle of violence is familiar: injury or perceived injury, a rash choice – and a disastrous end.
A lot of solid ideas have surfaced over the past two weeks about how we can prevent recurrence. Some of them are already in place and others have not yet been tried.
We confess, however, that we do not know what to do next.
We believe, though, that to break this cycle requires nothing short of a sea change: persuading our young people that anger is not a virtue and that violence settles nothing; weaning them from the glorification of the gangsta culture that exalts violence, degrades women and debases humanity; and providing concrete foundations for their future.
One man at a meeting last week suggested that we look at our youth as our infrastructure and care for them accordingly.
There are already some programs under way to keep our youth from falling through holes in the safety net we try to weave for them and into a dangerous, dead-end life on the streets. Some of these are as Youth Organizations Umbrella, the McGaw Y, the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, the Youth Job Center, the Moran Center, PEER Services, the City of Evanston, many faith-based organizations, Evanston Township High School and other schools of all levels.
Few of them, we suspect, would not welcome an influx of money and capable, dedicated volunteers.
But maybe this community is ready for something more dramatic.
Maybe Evanston, on the eve of its 150th anniversary, is ready to do as a handful of other communities have done and make The Promise – that every Evanston resident who graduates from Evanston Township High School will be able to attend a State university or college or community college tuition-free. Evanston would come up with its own version.
One of the notable “Promise” cities is Kalamazoo, Mich., where a group of anonymous donors pledged to pay the tuition for graduates of Kalamazoo’s public high schools to attend a State of Michigan college, community college or university.
Begun in 2005, the program appears to have a lot of success, even though some steep challenges – such as improving the high school graduation rate – remain.
Other communities have similar promise programs.
Implementing an Evanston Promise would require a lot of time and thought to determine eligibility requirements, conditions of acceptance, length of the offer and administration of the program. It would also require a boatload of money, and perhaps an angel or two.
This is not an easy proposition, but it is one to think about.
There are many intelligent, thoughtful and innovative people in Evanston.
Is this something we want to do?
Is it something we want to promise?
If so, why not soon?
It was an Evanston resident, after all, who advised, “Make no little plans.” Daniel Burnham’s plans even now affect aspects of the way we live.
Maybe we can do something similar for future generations. If we are going to do this, we should do it well and comprehensively. We should make no little promise.