We are a community based, non-profit organization committed to Bronzeville’s youth and community. We collaborate with residents and organizations on the South Side of Chicago to provide programs, host events and respond to community-identified opportunities.
We envision a Bronzeville where youth and other community members meet trauma with restorative justice in order to renew the relationships (with ourselves, our neighbors, and our environments) which lead to our individual and collective flourishing.
Our commitment to restorative justice drives the work of our organization. Born out of the ministry of New Community Covenant Church, we lead restorative justice programming utilizing the circle process for high school students at Bronzeville high schools, maintain a community garden in order to provide fresh produce to our neighbors, and organizes & hosts a community-wide back-to-school fair, among other neighborhood initiatives.
Our work depends on trusted partnerships with neighborhood residents, community organizations, and schools in the greater Bronzeville community; we are intentional to allow space to be responsive to the needs of our community as they rise.
Read more about our programs and initiatives.
The KEY Program utilizes the circle process, a restorative justice practice, which invites students to process their feelings, experiences, and circumstances in a designated, consistent safe space. The program addresses trauma of all kinds, specifically gun violence, and intentionally builds students’ toolbox of mindfulness, healthy coping skills, and opportunities to flourish by tapping into students’ strengths.
The KEY Program has been at Walter H. Dyett High School for the Performing Arts since 2018, at Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine since 2020, and at Bronzeville Scholastic Institute since 2021. In addition to weekly programming, KEY builds up leadership and community engagement in students through a community giveback project that is entirely designed and implemented by students. Using our original KEY curriculum, a restorative space invites students to increase their understanding and knowledge of their identity & community and the interconnected between the two.
The KEY Program continues to provide regular circles during the school week and monthly at our office as well as mentoring and tangible care for our youth in Bronzeville.
“KEY allowed me to really look inside myself and think about others' situations compared to mine. It also made me think about the type of person I’ll become…” (Audrey, 9th Grade)
“I grew a lot participating in this program. The mentors that are there have just pushed me to be better and do better. I am so grateful for this experience!!!” (Jacinta, 9th Grade)
“I’ve become more open minded to things and more accepting to other people.” (Jonathan, 10th Grade)
“The program really helped me become a better person. I started the program a very depressed person ready to give up. However, everything changed when I started talking to someone about my problems and opening up more. I am very grateful for people like you.” (Alexa, 12th Grade)
For more information about the KEY Program, or to learn about bringing the program to your school, please email Sonia Wang.
The KEY Summer Leadership Program (SLP) is an invitation for young people to engage in restorative justice through reflection on their identity & feelings while developing leadership skills and learning about social [in]justice issues, Chicago the community, and being change agents. The program is centered around the planning & implementation of a community giveback project, giving youth the opportunity to engage with neighbors in a new way and understand their role in building a stronger, more resilient community.
During the 7-week program, SLP builds on the trusted community students have contributed to and grows their professionalism. Participation in this program will lead to a stipend as well as the opportunity to receive further training in restorative justice in order to serve as NCO KEY interns.
Congratulations to our SLP 2023 Cohort for completing the summer program. For their capstone community impact project, our youth leaders came to consensus on addressing the lack of educational resources that are available to students in Bronzeville. After securing support from the Chicago Bulls through a formal pitch, SLP participants and interns developed 135 resource packets filled with school supplies and a pamphlet they created which listed tutoring, scholarship, mental health, and extra-curricular resources. As the students distributed these resource packets directly to students at two Bronzeville high schools, they were able to share why they developed the packets and what they hope the packets will provide for their peers during the school year.
This year we are proud to have three interns join our 2022 SLP staff:
Mia Coleman - Rising Senior - Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts
Favour Olatunde - Rising Sophomore - Augustana College
Honest Ware - Rising Senior - DeVry University Advantage Academy
Congratulations to the 2021 KEY Summer Leadership Program Participants!
Top Row L to R: Jacinta Merritt (11th*), Marquis Kelly-Overstreet (11th), Tyla Watkins (12th), Keon Rodgers (9th)
Middle Row L to R: Terrance Weatherspoon (10th), Malakneya Lee (9th), Janessa Savage (9th), Destiny Fitzgerald (9th)
Bottom Row L to R: Trinity Johnson (11th), Maasiah Madison (10th), Gionna Shack (11th), Jabari Cobb (10th)
*Indicates grade level completed at end of SY21-22
The Garden to Table Program commits to growing as much food through our community garden and distributing fresh produce to our greater Bronzeville neighbors. NCO manages and maintains a community garden in partnership with Jackie Robinson Elementary School. This community garden is tended to by our volunteers and then weekly, we harvest to provide fresh produce to our neighbors through contactless distributions throughout the summer/fall season. Through additional partnerships, The Farm and New Community Covenant Church-Bronzeville, we will continue to distribute non-perishable care packages as well as provide additional produce to our Bronzeville neighbors on a regular basis.
The southside of Chicago continues to be a region where food deserts remain an obstacle to its residents. Through our garden program, we aim to contribute in a small way to make fresh produce available and accessible at no cost to all of our neighbors. There is no stipulation or requirements of community members in order to receive produce on distribution days.
If you are interested in receiving free produce, please join our message center by texting @NCOGarden to 81010 (see flier) to receive notifications. Distributions take place every Saturday from 10-11am at Robinson Elementary, through October.
If you are interested in volunteering with the Garden to Table program, please complete this sign up form.
Thank you to everyone for joining us for this year’s Back to School Fun Fair! We hosted over 300 students, community members, and volunteers. We’re grateful for all of our amazing community partners, including Aetna Better Health, Ald. King & 4th Ward Office, Bright Star Community Outreach, Chicago Fire Department, Chicago Public Library, Hinsdale Covenant Church, Intonation Music, New Community Covenant Church, Open Books, UChicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital, and especially Jackie Robinson Elementary School! We’ll see you next year!
Check out photos from this year’s Back to School Fun Fair in Photos
The KEY Program Circle Keeper (CK) serves as a trauma responsive support for youth by being in tune with the student participants, the community, and current climate of our city. They are charged with implementing the KEY Program with fidelity so that students have access to a designated, consistent safe space to process their emotions and experiences and to access various tools and opportunities in order to flourish. Derrick Dunn (left) and Dani Jones (right) are members of the KEY Staff and CK for the 2022-2023 school year.
The Garden Manager (GM) is the lead team member in the successful implementation of the Garden to Table Program, ensuring the growth and proper maintenance of our garden. Maggie Swanson (right) has been our GM since 2020. The NCO Garden Associate (GA) works closely with GM, supporting in all areas of the garden and GtT program. Sara Woody (left) was a volunteer in 2021 and stepped into the GA staff position in 2022.
The Annual Back to School Fun Fair is an opportunity for volunteer leaders to support in the planning and implementation of the event. This includes community partner outreach, purchasing/creating needed materials, day of leadership, and so on. Our 2022 committee members were (L to R): Daynah Parker, Dayna Asante-Appiah, & Tiffany Fang.
Collaboration is in our DNA. Our work depends on trusted partnerships with neighborhood residents, civic organizations, charitable foundations, and long-distance friends who believe in our mission. You can participate by:
Sonia brings her commitment to social justice to her work by prioritizing opportunities to develop and foster one's voice as a means to advocate for one's needs as a learner and participant in the larger democracy. Drawing from almost 15 years of experience as a classroom teacher and school administrator on the southside of Chicago as well as her work in educational non-profit organizations, Sonia grounds herself in the important values of creativity, transparency, and humanity as a starting point for the outflow of all things in order to positively contribute to and effect change in our greater society.
Sonia received her Bachelor's Degree in Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago. Then as a Rockefeller Brothers Fellow, she continued on to receive her MAT in Elementary Education from the Urban Teacher Education Program at the University of Chicago. She has worked in schools in West Englewood, Woodlawn, and North Lawndale, in both the middle and high school levels, in a variety of roles including English teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal and principal. She is also the co-founder of Be the Change Collaborative, a teacher professional development organization. In any role she assumes, she is committed to creating safe and collaborative spaces for learning and growth for students, staff, and the community at large.
Sonia is a founding member of New Community Covenant Church, where she has served on our Leadership Team as the chairperson and serves in different ways, more recently as a Community Group Leader. While Gandhi's call to "be the change" has been with her from her journey as an educator, more recently Sonia draws from James Baldwin's important reminder that "The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you can alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change the world."
Karlos Dodson is married to Professor Michelle Dodson of North Park Seminary and the father to two lovely daughters Prisca and Hadassah. He currently works as a Data & Analytics Consultant at CVS (Aetna) in the Advanced Process Insights and Reengineering group. Previously he worked 20+ years as a Senior Management Analyst/Information Technology Coordinator for the U.S. Federal Government. Karlos currently serves as the board chair for Cambridge Classical Academy and a board member for Hyde Park School of Dance. He is a graduate of The University of Chicago where he received a Master of Science in Analytics. He also has a Master of Business Administration in Information Systems from DePaul University and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the University of Memphis.
David is the founding pastor of New Community Covenant Church in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. He is a member of the Bronzeville Community Action Council, The Urban Resilience Network, and a racial reconciliation facilitator with the Evangelical Covenant Church. David is a graduate of Montreat College and Wheaton College Graduate School. He writes and speaks extensively on the topics of community development, racial reconciliation, and justice.
3627 S Cottage Grove Ave
Chicago, IL 60653