Americans don’t need to travel to the Middle East or the Horn of Africa to witness the effects of deprivation and violence on kids. Diane Latiker looked no further than Chicago’s South Side. Diane saw children without parental or institutional guidance falling in step with a gangland mentality that leaves hundreds shot each year and many more headed for prisons, substance-abuse deaths and poverty.
A 54-year-old mother of eight and grandmother to 13, Latiker opened her home and started Kids Off the Block (KOB) in 2003. Now, her mentoring program gives safe haven and guideposts for a meaningful future to 300 embattled Chicago youths a year. On a typical day, 30 to 50 kids show up at the KOB center for tutoring from former teachers, to practice job interviews, for field trips and fundamental heart-to-heart talk.
Why does Diane do it? CNN reports:
“Our young people need help,” Latiker said. “All of them are not gang-bangers. All of them are not dropouts. But the ones that are, they need our help. Somehow or another, something ain't right here. And why don't we ask them about it?”
Kids Off the Block has traveled to cities across the country, including Detroit and St. Louis, taking its message—and its listening ear—to the young people living there.