WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — A West Side boxing club known for working with kids can increase its programs after receiving a $1 million grant.
The group, The Bloc, is one of five recipients of the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education’s 1954 Project Luminary Awards, which supports leaders of Black education nonprofits. Jamyle Cannon, founder and executive director of The Bloc, will receive the grant to further the work he does providing opportunities to West Side youth.
Cannon was selected out of more than 200 applicants.
“There’s just this new sense of possibility that comes up with grants like this,” Cannon said. “A million dollars — we have bigger than a million-dollar problem on the West Side of Chicago. The Bloc has a much bigger than a million-dollar problem to solve. But this is a great start and puts us towards our end goal of changing the after school landscape of Chicago’s West Side.”
The Bloc, which also runs food pantries at its headquarters at the former home of Mission of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1345 N. Karlov Ave., was one of three winners in the awards’ Teach and Learning category.
Winners for the 1954 Project 2022 Luminary Awards were announced in a virtual awards show Thursday.
The Bloc will receive the money this fall, Cannon said. The grant is unrestricted, meaning The Bloc can use the funds however its leaders choose to further the group’s mission.
“I left feeling encouraged, but I also feel a real sense of duty to make the best of this grant, to show what $1 million can do in this community so that people know that when they invest more, more success happens,” Cannon said.
Cannon said he wants to recruit more young participants, expand to more West Side schools, strengthen The Bloc’s academic and enrichment services and formalize its screen printing, computer science, photography and money management programs.
“We want to become an option for every kid on Chicago’s West Side. … We want to strengthen the level of service that we’re bringing to them today,” he said.
Youth participants told Cannon they’re already thinking about possibilities for the money, like more field trips and better snacks, he said. They’ve also thought about the program reaching even more young people like them and the ways that could change their lives, he said.
“There’s this double take that happens when they realize, ‘Wait, we’re getting $1 million,’” Cannon said. “I think even they are feeling the sense of possibility. Their minds are roaming about what this can mean for the future of The Bloc because they love this program and they want more people to be involved.
“They dream far and beyond what my mind goes to because their aspirations are untethered. So they see so many great things coming out of this $1 million grant.”
Cannon is excited to see what The Bloc will be able to accomplish. Creating long-lasting change on the West Side will mean not just supporting one West Side organization like The Bloc, but also getting resources to the entire community, he said.
“We are in a community that hasn’t been given the resources that they need to succeed, and we continually point at the community and wonder why they’re not succeeding,” Cannon said. “And it’s because there’s a lack of resources. So the more great resources we get to the West Side of Chicago, the better the results are going to be and the stronger the city of Chicago is going to be as a whole.”
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