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Youth Gang Violence

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

During the Spring 2019 semester, my Social Work classmates and I worked on our final projects of choice. For my project, I decided to learn about youth gang violence in urban settings. I researched and learned about the ways in which social work values can be and have been applied to a solution to reduce urban youth gang violence. Upon learning about the different types of interventions that have been used on gang violence, I was able to view gang violence through a different lens, in a different way, rather than the stereotypical views one may have. Even though this project was to learn broadly about gang violence in any community, I was not surprised when my community, Little Village, was among the research journals I’d find.

Photo Credit: Erendira Martinez

People have mixed feelings about Little Village, leaving reviews such as “there's like 300 different clothing stores that basically sell the same thing at exaggerated prices .. there's more than a few restaurants, but c'mon, how many different ways can u make a taco??” (Saldana, 2016) or “The food makes my heart sing because if I'm ever gonna feel the closest to Mexico anywhere here in Chicago, it's gonna be here in La Villita. The bad, because it's made me stronger and has motivated me to rise above all the negativism that surrounds us” (Solycielo, 2017). And not to mention, the recently finished mural in The Nuevo Leon Restaurant has been a highlight of La Villita. The mural - painted by Elizabeth “Liz” Reyes - is dedicated to remembering the lives of our loved ones (Ballesteros, 2019). Regardless of what anyone else thinks about Little Village, it is my home, a place where I grew up. However, my friends and I have always wondered why it is that gang violence is common in our neighborhoods and why no one has done anything about it.

Photo Credit: Erendira Martinez

On my block, there is this mural in front of a house that I would always pass by which would read “Don’t shoot! I want to grow up”. For the reason that my project was about learning of youth gang violence in urban settings, I had this vision in which that art in the fencing of the house had a different point of view. Working on my project, I learned about an interesting perspective in which gang members are often seen as failures by the schools and organizations in their community. This contrasts with the stereotype that gang members simply don’t want to put in the effort at schools. Even though the literature on gang violence in scholarly format was rather difficult to find, with many of them being outdated, once finding them I was glad and intrigued to know that at one point some type of outreach had once occurred in my neighborhood.

Photo Credit: Erendira Martinez

Overall, I learned that gang violence is not just a single person’s fault, but rather an entire system’s, because as the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”. My project came full circle, tying my research with my personal experiences in my community and made it all the more meaningful, and reminds me about the great community that awaits me when I go home.


Ballesteros, C. (2019, October 19). New Little Village mural completed in time for annual Mexican

Saldana, S. (2016, December 16). La Villita Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from

Solycielo, L. (2017, February 12). La Villita, Chicago. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from

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