Chicago elementary school students surrounded by violence, constantly approached by gangs

FOX 32 NEWS - One Chicago school finds itself in the crossfire.

It is Shields Elementary School in Chicago’s Brighton Park neighborhood, and kids are constantly approached by gangs and surrounded by violence.

Nine people have been shot near the school in the past month. And now, the community is fighting for millions of dollars to fund prevention programs.

“When a child says to you, I don't want to go to school because the gang bangers will be shooting. I might die or you might die. That's sad for a child to tell a grandmother or especially a mom,” said Grandmother Amy Romero.

It’s a story being echoed across this Brighton Park neighborhood. Parents of students at Shields Middle School say it's what inspired them to not only ask Chicago police for more help, they're now turning to Mayor Emanuel.

Carmen Castillo is one of the parents leading the charge. It started for her with her 7-year-old daughter Sophia.

"She told me, Mom I'm afraid to go outside. She doesn't want to go outside, she doesn't want to be in the backyard, she doesn't want to be in front. But, during the snow, she says I want to build a snowman,” Castillo said.

Despite the urge to go outside when the snow falls, Sophia has yet to do so.

“I haven't made one,” she said.

That’s why parents, community leaders and aldermen took to City Hall. The group is asking for the city to use 17-million dollars from the home tax refund surplus for violence preventative programs.

The mayor, so far, is proposing dedicating five-million dollars to the cause.

"Yesterday I received a letter from a 6th grader, who told me that the gangs were like his family and they loved him and he loved them. We as a city must show that we love our children and our communities more than the gangs do,” said Alderman Raymond Lopez.

Organizers would like to see the money go to efforts like funding Chicago’s youth job program all year. They also want to see the rest disbursed to causes like youth mentoring, trauma counseling and street level intervention.

“I think right now the main crisis that we need to deal with are our children and trying to keep these young kids from getting shot on our streets,” said Alderman Jason Ervin.

The mayor's office says the rest of 17-million will also go to providing all Chicago police officers body cameras and rehabbing vacant homes that will create two hundred jobs.

Parents hope more will be dedicated to protecting their children.

The aldermen will be presenting their proposal to City Council.

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