CHICAGO — It happens to Jahmal Cole so often, he knew he had to do something.
Cole, the founder of the My Block, My Hood, My City group that mentors young people in Chicago, has emerged as a role model around town. His programs, organized cleanups, impromptu snow shoveling for seniors and active presence on Instagram and Facebook have made him a recognizable face to seek help — and people do it all the time, he writes.
“This year over 50 parents have stopped me inside the grocery store or the gas pump, asking me to spend time with their sons,” Cole wrote in his newsletter. “‘He just lost his best friend last year to gun violence, or his dad and me just had a divorce and that’s really affected him, he’s going down the wrong path and needs a positive role model. Can you just call him Jahmal, please just call him. Just a quick lunch for an hour on the weekend. Here’s my phone, just text message him.’
“The way these parents grab my arm and look me dead in my eyes, I feel their sincerity. I feel how urgent the situation is.”
In response, My Block, My Hood, My City is holding free training days this summer and calling the event the “Young Men’s Survival Summit.”
It will be held July 9-10 at the Hancock Building, and Cole needs volunteers to help.
Teens and young men will undergo physical, mental and emotional training “to push them through the Chicago summer,” according to the group.
“In the face of rising summer violence, youth arrests, and low confidence, My Block, My Hood, My City is offering an opportunity for young men to rise and survive!” the organization said online.
The training will cover the basics of boxing, breathing and focusing, knowing your rights, setting goals, community building and resolving conflicts, among other things.
The summit is 8 a.m. July 9 and 8 a.m. July 10 at the Hancock Center. Boys and men aged 14-21 can submit an application online if they’d like to participate.
The group is also asking for donations and volunteers for the summit. Information about donating or volunteering is available online.
My Block, My Hood, My City focuses on helping young people on the South and West sides explore other parts of the city to broaden their horizons and open them up to new opportunities.