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How Waukegan is putting teens to work to help combat gun violence

WAUKEGAN, Ill. — Like many communities around Chicagoland, gun violence has been a challenge in Waukegan. With the long summer months ahead, the city came up with a creative solution to combat the issue.

The solution is a partnership between Waukegan’s Department of Public Works and a local non-profit organization known as the Antmound Foundation.

Organizers call it ‘Operation Radiance’ and the linchpin of the program centers around repainting the city’s fire hydrants. In all, there are about 3,000 of them in and around the city of Waukegan — and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, throughout the summer — local young people can pick up a paint brush and make $15-an-hour helping spruce up the city’s image.

“We are doing great work,” said Anthony McIntyre, founder of the Antmound Foundation. “There are thousands of fire hydrants in the city. We are going to get them.”

City officials describe the program as being mutually beneficial for both Waukegan and young people around the city looking to earn money.

“Hopefully it shows kids how to productively fill their time,” said Ann Taylor, Mayor of Waukegan. “They are not on the streets … just idling, doing nothing [and] they get a paycheck for it at the end of it.”

Rogelio Sanchez, a 16-year-old from Waukegan, said he found out about the opportunity through his mom and has enjoyed his experience so far.

“I’ve made friends in the program,” Sanchez said. “I’ve enjoyed my time. I like painting … it is nice to get paid for it.”

McIntyre also believes the program offers more for teens and young adults than just an opportunity to occupy their time away from situations that could lead to gun violence.

“You take pressure off your family, you can pay for some of your own things because you worked for it,” McIntyre said. “That, in itself, is a deterrent to shenanigans on the streets. And it’s a distraction from other people who may try to convince them of other ways to make money.”

For more information on Operation Radiance, visit the Antmound Foundation’s website.

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