Matteson, IL – CANEI team brings together 5 rival gangs in a declared space called the Neutral Zone

Judy Strnad , Director of Program Development – CANEI – sent in the following:

Congratulations to the Illinois CANEI team for holding their first CANEI group yesterday afternoon. I had the honor of being present for this initial session. All seven youth were in attendance and got to meet each other. They are all wonderful young men who set rules for their group and declared the space to be a “neutral zone.” They call themselves “neutrons.” This means that even though there are 5 rival gangs being represented in this group, when they are together in CANEI, everyone is to be respected and safe. The rapport that the CANEI team has established with the youth is impressive. The youth shared one strength they bring to the group. CANEI leaders, Katie Sullivan and Maureen McInerney also verbalized the strength they see in each youth based on their experiences with them. As with all youth in CANEI, these young men also verbalized the dreams they have for their future. Hopefully, CANEI will help them look at their lives differently and set them on the path to reach their potential. One young man made the decision to walk to group yesterday and stated when he arrived that he will not be able to do that again. He was stopped by a rival gang but made the choice to stay calm and keep walking. Fortunately, he was not harmed. Thank you to the CANEI team in Illinois for doing such a remarkable job!

That said, it is important to understand that all CANEI staff within NYAP work in very dangerous communities on behalf of youth and families. Most of the youth we are serving are gang affiliated in some way. Nothing about the work the CANEI teams provide the youth and families is easy, and the lengths our CANEI teams go to in providing CANEI services is amazing. Please keep them in your thoughts.