Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video Arne Duncan forms CRED, part of Arne Duncan Interview: Education and Reducing Violence.
- For the past couple of years, I'd come home to Chicago, you know, two or three or four times a year, and I just started talking to lots of people. I'd talk to guys on street corners, I'll talk to political leaders. I'd go to Cook County Jail, I'd go to the juvenile detention facility. And just trying to get my fingers, trying to see if I could get the pulse of what was happening. No one was making any money on the streets. And guys were tired, they were scared, they were tired of getting shot at. And I would say, whenever there's a crisis, there's also real opportunity.
And the opportunity here was no one was getting rich, people were tired of the street life, and they wanted to get out. I just sorta started to ask guys, if we were able to get you a job, if we were able to hire you, what would we have to pay you to get you out of the street life? And it was just stunning, but I just heard it time after time after time. It was like 11 dollars, 12 dollars, 13 dollars an hour. It was peanuts, it was nothing. For a small, small amount of money, for a small investment, they were willing to put down the guns and do something else. So we can have all the great theories and idea in the world, but work's only possible when you have an amazing partner.
And Emerson Collective has just been an extraordinary partner. And, literally, has made all of this work possible. So, with Laurene Powell leadership and vision, and willingness to honestly do some really tough stuff and take some risks. There are a couple of different components to our program. We've been able to hire. We've been able to hire lots of guys on the south and west side, and provide them with a job. With a legal income. And I would say it's great to tell guys to put down the guns, but these are men we're working with. These aren't boys, most are 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25.
Many are fathers, many have kids. And so they have to make money. And they're gonna make it either in the illegal economy or the legal economy. We're just trying to give them a choice they didn't have. So being able to literally hire has been hugely important. But, as important, if not more important, is all of what I call the wrap around services. Having guys be able to talk through the trauma. Again, not post traumatic stress disorder, but present, current, everyday trauma. Having great counselors, having amazing life coaches working with them. Working through issues around substance abuse.
The combination of the job and the wrap around services, I think are just so hugely important. And all of that has been possible due to Emerson's commitment. For me, at the end of the day, our simple goal, it's not simple to achieve, it's simple to articulate, is to reduce the number of homicides, the number of shootings here in Chicago. And I would say we can get all the high school diplomas we want, obviously I've been in education all my life, that's important to me, but if homicides aren't going down, we're actually failing. And we're not doing our job. So, at the end of the day, that is the ultimate yardstick.
That's the ultimate measurement. Are we reducing homicides? Are we reducing the number of shootings in Chicago? At the more individual level, at the granular level, there are a number of things that we're looking at. Obviously looking at guys who, after spending nine months, 12 months, 15 months with us, are they transitioning to the legal economy? And we're starting to have guys, now, who have been in jobs six, seven, eight, nine months straight, which has been amazing to see. And, again, we're sort of a stepping stone, a transition job to that. We look at the number of guys who are becoming clean.
We're looking at the number of guys who are working through their own trauma. Obviously, the high school diplomas, and now having a couple of guys in college. So there's a number of different metrics we're looking at on the individual guide by guide basis. But, again, I am convinced that if we can start to reach not hundreds, but 500, 800, 1,000, 1,500 guys a year, I think, three, four, five years from now, Chicago will be at a very, very different place.