Chasing23 Youth Empowerment Group is a community-based organization providing opportunities for young men of color who are out of school, out of work or facing trouble with the law. With personal, academic and professional support, Chasing23 hopes to instill social-emotional competence in the youth they serve, to give them better access to education and sustained employment.
As a young adult, founder Darius Ballinger was out of school, out of work and facing a criminal sentence. In hopes of changing his own trajectory and providing guidance to others susceptible to the same pitfalls, Darius founded Chasing23 in 2016.
In the years since, Darius has made it his mission to serve black and brown youth – ages 16-24 – in the Bronzeville, Grand Boulevard, South Shore, Washington Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods of Chicago. These young men face personal, academic and professional obstacles, which Chasing23 seeks to address with a comprehensive blend of mentoring, tutoring and workforce development programming. Chasing23 aims to build up young men of color who have the skills and passion to work towards more equitable communities.
In the past, Chasing23, with the help of local community partners, provided paid-work experiences for their youth through One Summer Chicago summer programming. However, it became clear to Darius that Chasing23 could expand its impact with their own social enterprise, in order to provide additional employment opportunities in-house throughout the school year.
To further Chasing23’s workforce development initiative, Darius started South Side Prints, a print shop located in Bronzeville. South Side Prints is a social enterprise that offers high-quality, affordable screen-printing services to the greater Chicagoland area, while also providing Chicago youth with the skills and support they need to be career-ready. Employees experience every step of the screen-printing process, from interacting with clients to using screen-printing equipment to delivering the final product. They also gain exposure to soft skills, like timeliness and professional communication strategies. With each purchase of personalized apparel, South Side Prints creates a tangible impact on the communities it serves and sets itself apart from other services.
In order to more directly provide paid work experience to their participants, Chasing23 will be scaling South Side Prints. Their goal is to develop and integrate South Side Prints into their overall program as a twice-weekly workforce development intervention, further providing opportunities for youth on Chicago’s South Side.
Chasing23 is a member of SEA’s first Pave a Path cohort.
To learn more about Chasing23 Youth Empowerment Group, check out their member directory profile.