One For One: Helping Chicago Teens Living in Violent Communities Find a Positive Path Forward

As Chicagoans, we hear about the violence plaguing our city on a daily basis. Turn on the news or open the paper and you are bound to hear about the latest victims of gun violence on any given day. For many of us, these unbelievable statistics have become the norm, all too familiar soundbites that flow in and out of our daily lives without actually touching us personally. But for the young adults living in zip codes most of us only read about, nonprofit organization One For One believes the way out is through providing opportunities.

One For One supports young adults living in Chicago’s most dangerous and violent communities through programming, workshops, mentorship, and employment. The organization was originally established in 2007 as the Ferrer Foundation, which focused on children of incarcerated parents. Over the years, it has evolved its mission to best serve young adults living in Chicago communities where violence is prevalent. One For One provides these opportunities that nurture values and integrity, and help give the participants options and strategies to create peace in their lives.

One For One Chicago
Wreath-making workshop with One For One participants

“Time and time again, we see the value that comes from providing consistent opportunities and resources to these young adults. Their self-esteem, confidence, and ability to make good choices is evident,” said Founder and Executive Director Meghan Olson. “At the end of the day, we are really here to offer hope, which can’t be underestimated.”

Two years ago, One For One partnered with nonprofit greenhouse Herban Produce in West Garfield Park. The Keeping Grounded Greenhouse Program was established as a way to provide hands-on horticulture, greenhouse experience, year-round workshops and summer employment for high school students who have limited access to safe havens, and quality employment options. For many of the students, having the greenhouse program in their own neighborhood has made it even more impactful, as it has a positive ripple effect in the community.

One For One Chicago: Herban Produce Greenhouse
Inside the Herban Produce Greenhouse

One For One also provides unique year-round workshops and exposure activities for teens at John Marshall Metropolitan High School in Garfield Park — everything from financial literacy education, field trips to downtown landmarks and museums, and immersive workshops. Recently, CBS Television sponsored a two-day workshop for the teens with the cast and crew of CBS All Access’ hit original drama series “The Good Fight.” Led by actress Cush Jumbo, cast and crew flew in for a weekend to teach One For One participants about the inner workings of television and career possibilities ranging from directing and wardrobe to acting. The inspiring weekend wrapped up not only with a newfound knowledge about an industry they might want to work in some day, but also with a sense of hope and endless possibility as the kids head into summer.

One For One Chicago: CBS Workshop with Cush Jumbo
Actress Cush Jumbo from CBS’ “The Good Fight” leads a workshop session

Carol Williams, a teacher at Marshall High School who works closely with One For One, said it best: “Sometimes all it takes is exposure to turn the direction of a life around. The kids have to make the ultimate choice, but now they have the information.”


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