UCAN's External Affairs team aims to ensure that UCAN youth have a voice. Their work entails:
- Advocating for legislature which protects and supports our youth
- Meeting with elected officials and community leaders, working to educate them on key topics and gain support for both social services in general and UCAN in particular
- Providing forums for UCAN youth and supporters to interact with, learn from and inform our legislators
- Serving on committees and in membership groups, supporting our partners and our industry
- Hosting, working at and attending events to introduce communities and individuals to UCAN
- Raising awareness about gun violence and how it affects our youth
- Working with young people to support their advocacy efforts
Recent activity includes:
Hosting and supporting community events: UCAN staff and Youth Ambassadors
participated in the Annual Homan Square Winterfest where North Lawndale community members had the opportunity to receive holiday gifts and learn more about UCAN and our future presence in North Lawndale. UCAN staff also regularly assist in the Family Focus food pantry event the third Thursday of every month in the North Lawndale area. There, UCAN helps fill, organize and distribute bags of fresh food and canned goods to more than 200 community members, many of whom are elderly or are young parents with kids who depend upon this event to meet their monthly food requirements.
Bringing legislators to UCAN: Senator Richard Durbin met with youth in UCAN's Project Visible Man program, where he gained a firsthand perspective on how violence affects our youth every day. Separately, Illinois Senator Dan Kotowski spoke to UCAN supporters at the 4th Annual Signature Leaders Society breakfast in December, discussing a variety of topics including pension reform.
Raising awareness about how gun violence affects youth: UCAN regularly commissions our National Teen Gun Survey to measure teen opinions on gun violence. UCAN staff also regularly author or contribute to news stories to share information with the public. Recent press on the topic of gun violence in Chicago includes:
- MSNBC, 12/20/12: CEO Tom Vanden Berk, CITY VP Norman Kerr, and UCAN Youth Ambassador Cordell Smith speak about the rising toll of gun violence in Chicago
- Chicago Sun Times, 12/20/12: Article on the Illinois handgun conceal and carry law, featuring Tom Vanden Berk
- Chicago Tribune, 8/5/12: CEO Tom Vanden Berk speaks out about responsible gun ownership in the wake of the Colorado theatre shooting
Meeting with elected officials and community leaders: UCAN attended the Illinois Black Caucus in Springfield, discussing UCAN's upcoming Campaign with legislators including Governor Pat Quinn, US Senator Richard Durbin, Illinois Senator Emil Jones lll, Illinois Senator Donnie Trotter, Illinois Representative Will Davis, and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle. Staff also attended the 40th ICOY Anniversary Dinner held at the Governor's mansion and met with key elected officials including Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez.
Collaborating with community leaders and religious organizations:
UCAN participated in the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence "Parents and Community Against Violence" press conference held at St. Sabina Church, where family members who have lost loved ones to gun violence and community members gathered.