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.
This year, we are offering Weekly After-School KEY Sessions at our office on Thursdays, 4:30-6:00pm. Register below or email Danielle Jones.
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, students came to a consensus on addressing the harms that have been caused in their community as a result of the lack of guidance teens are receiving and the lack of resources their peers are actively accessing and utilizing. To address this issue, they developed four videos on the topics of mental health, homelessness, safety, and mentors to invite teens to talk about their experiences with these topics.
After securing support from the Chicago Bulls through a formal pitch, SLP participants and interns worked in various teams (production, content creation, branding, and resource curation) to ensure the highest quality of product so that their peers would engage with the content. Further, they decided to work with professional videographers, J4Vision and Lenz Perspective Visuals, to film and edit their videos. All videos are available via social media platforms, and the cohort aims to keep the conversation active so that there is a platform for youth to discuss personal experiences rather than repress them. Further, all videos point students to a linktree that has been intentionally curated to direct teens to local resources in these four areas.
This year we are proud to have two Senior Interns and two Interns join our 2023 SLP staff. Interns play a critical role in planning sessions, circle keeping, and supporting cohort members throughout the program. Our Senior Interns take on additional responsibilities to cultivate professional learning opportunities for staff.
Clockwise from Upper Left: Honest Ware (Intern, Rising Freshman at Chicago State University); Jacinta Merritt (Intern, Rising Freshman at Bradley University); Mia Coleman (Senior Intern, Rising Freshman at Western Illinois University); Favour Olatunde (Senior Intern, Rising Junior at Augustana College)
Congratulations to the 2023 KEY Summer Leadership Program Participants (Cohort 4)!
Top Row L to R: Ramatoulie Njie (9), Shazara Tucker (10), Amarion Nelson (12), Zorah McGee (10)
Middle Row L to R: Janessa Savage (10), Jakaira White (10), Kayla Canty (12), Jabari Cobb (11)
Bottom Rom L to R: Tachela Hill (12), Terrance Weatherspoon (11)
*Indicates grade level completed at end of SY22-23
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, partners, and volunteers. We’re grateful for all of our amazing community partners, including Aetna Better Health, Ald. Robinson & 4th Ward Office, Chicago Fire Department, Hinsdale Covenant Church, Ignite, 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!
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 the current climate of our city. They are responsible for 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. All staff have certification in circle keeping by an approved circle keeper training organization.
2023-2024 KEY Staff/Circle Keepers - (From left to right): Dani Jones, Aricel Dunn, Derrick Dunn, Sonia Wang, Jonathan Norman
TThe 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 Assistant Manager (GAM) works closely with GM, supporting in all areas of the garden and GtT program. Linda Rhodes (left) has been a volunteer since 2021, and Janet Yim (right) was a volunteer in 2022. Both stepped into the GAM staff position in 2023.
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 2023 planning committee consists of (L to R) Daynah Parker, Dayna Asante-Appiah, & Tiffany Fang, who organized and led NCO in this capacity last year as well.
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 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 over 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 affect 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 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. 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."
Kaitlin is originally from California and has called Chicago home for the last 20 years. She is married and has three very active sons (7, 5 and 3-years old) who keep her and her husband Hana on their toes. She is a member of New Community Covenant Church-Bronzeville and serves on their Leadership Team. Her previous experience includes serving as the executive pastor at New Community Covenant Church-Logan Square as well as an Operations manager for a private engineering firm. She is a graduate of North Park Theological Seminary and Business School for graduate studies and Loyola University Business School for undergraduate studies. She is passionate about efficient organizational systems and operations to enable non-profits to focus on the important program work towards restorative justice and community development.
Danielle was born and raised in Cleveland Heights, OH, and has been happy to call Chicago home for the past six years. Danielle received her Bachelor's degree in English and African-American Studies from Dartmouth College. She also received her Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. She is passionate about building community and cultivating safe, restorative spaces for youth. Joining NCO back in 2021 as a volunteer mentor for the KEY Program, Danielle then joined the KEY team as a circle keeper before transitioning into her role as the Program Manager.
Pete grew up all around the Midwest but has made Southside Chicago his home for the last 20 years. That time has been spent growing a family (married to Nikki with 4 amazing kids) and working in a variety of community-based, non-profit roles on the southside. He is passionate about community flourishing and seeing people connect with the positive things happening in our community. Pete is a trained Circlekeeper and previously served within NCO’s KEY Program for 4 years. He is also the Director of Discipleship for Children & Youth at New Community Covenant Church-Bronzeville and provides a source of collaboration for both organizations.
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.