CHICAGO (NewsNation) — Violent crime is on the rise in our nation’s big cities like New York, Baltimore and Chicago. Our new NewsNation poll released Monday revealed that voters are concerned about the increase in crime throughout our country. 14.66% of voters believe it is the biggest issue our nation faces.
Founder and CEO of CHAMPS Mentoring Vondale Singleton joined “Morning in America” Monday to discuss his decision to mentor men against violence and addressing the real-world problems it causes.
Singleton wrote his own story. He became a first-generation college graduate with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and works as an advocate in primary, secondary and higher education — as both a teacher and administrator.
Singleton believes that, “Salvation plus education is an unbeatable combination.” He started CHAMPS in an effort to mentor young men with similar circumstances.
“We’ve seen high numbers of gun violence in Chicago. Unfortunately, just dealing with the loss of one of my mentees who was shot and killed at the Bean downtown,” Singleton said, “And so for me, this hits home, because my whole life is spent creating solutions around social-emotional learning, mental health, leadership development, exposure trips. And when it happens, you start at step one all over again.”
Singleton describes the pain and agony that he, his peers and his family feel when something like this happens — when unnecessary violence takes the life of a person.
The mother of Singleton’s late 16-year-old mentee came to him asking for assistance in planning his funeral.
“His mom said, ‘I’ve never done a funeral. Mr. Singleton, can you help me plan my baby’s funeral?’ Wow, hearing those types of words? It it makes you say, all right, where’s the help? Who’s going to help? What are the solutions? How can we get ahead? So we can prevent things like this from happening.”
The 16-year-old was allegedly killed by a 17-year-old in Millennium Park, Chicago, right by a popular tourist location known as “the Bean”, or “Cloud Gate.”
Chicago has seen a dramatic rise in violent crime, including an increase in carjackings around the city. According to Chicago police, there have been 207 homicides so far in 2022. At this time last year, there were 223 homicides.
“I mean, you see it, you hear about it. But the problem that I have is, when it happens on the south side or the west side, it should be the same outcry as it happens downtown — or the Gold Coast, or Lincoln Park.” Singleton said, but he does feel they have begun to see the urgency behind getting resources around violence prevention and intervention.
“Mentorship is prevention. I’ve been saying for 10 years since we’ve been running this program, give me the resources that we need in order to subside. I need to have full-time mentors that are really passionate and serious about prevention so we don’t have to do as much intervention.”
For Singleton, he says it’s different.
Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, he grew up in the Ida B. Wells housing projects. His mother suffered through a crack cocaine addiction, and died at 29 years old when Singleton was just 14.
“She had a great heart, but she had no one to cuff her when she was young,” Singleton said. “My father was in prison, I became a ward of the state.”
Singleton explained how his empathy level was at a different level than most, which encouraged him to become an assistant principal.
“I saw a need — a gap — that many homes that represented the south and west side, with boys and young men of color, didn’t have a positive male role model. So, their environment was conducive to getting into the streets or carrying a gun.
“And they have the greatest hearts in the world. So again, the investment, the opportunities that we need to see and have still persist. It’s just exasperated due to pandemic.”
Learn more about CHAMPS mentoring on its website.