Level-Up Luncheon

An Investment in Life

The goal of the Level-Up Luncheon, which will be hosted annually, is to create institutional-level funding for a single organization with unique potential for lasting impact in the city, in collaboration with the University Chicago Crime Lab and The Community Programs Accelerator, a program of the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement. We are also honored to present the inaugural Robert J. Zimmer Humanitarian Award to Chancellor Emeritus Robert J. Zimmer of the University of Chicago in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the University and Chicago and our city.

This year’s luncheon seeks to raise between five and ten million dollars for Ring of Hope, an after-school mentoring and athletic program in Greater Grand Crossing, by the end of the 2022 fiscal year. Located at the strategic intersection of two competing gang territories, Ring of Hope has provided safety, security, and solace for countless young people since its inception in 2010. Their offerings include boxing, basketball, double-dutch, art therapy, ACT/SAT prep, job readiness, a community food pantry, trauma-informed individual and group therapy, and overall emotional wellness education. By intervening at critical moments in youth and adolescence, Ring of Hope educates and empowers their children to be champions for change through their actions. Learn more about Ring of Hope below.

About Ring of Hope

According to a survey conducted by Afterschool Alliance, nearly 9 in 10 African-American parents agree that after-school programs help give working parents peace of mind, and that children and teens should have some form of organized activity after school. Additionally, more than 7 in 10 African-American children living in communities of concentrated poverty who are not in an after-school program would be enrolled if a program were available to them.

Ring of Hope aspires to help fill this after-school gap and be a supportive asset for parents and families during after school hours. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life to families in the Greater Grand Crossing community.

Ring of Hope’s vision is threefold:
(1) meet immediate pressing needs physically and emotionally, (2) scale longer term community wealth and health resources through business and workforce development and (3) reduce violence and increase opportunities for youth.

Programmatically, ROH uses four main pillars to pursue this mission and vision: 1) Youth Development, 2) Food Security, 3) Mental Wellness, and 4) Economic Development.

Youth Development

Currently, Ring of Hope offers Youth Boxing and Double-Dutch classes, which teach youth basic skills and technique specific to boxing and double-dutch while the larger goal is to teach the value of self-discipline and confidence as well as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and how to build and maintain healthy relationships. Ring of Hope's Expression Through Arts program consists of Print and Digital Media design and Audio Video Broadcast Productions. Participants will create a promotional product and will provide youths a form of expression to discuss solutions, ideas, or concerns. The goal of the program focuses on team building, work ethics, and communication skills as well as provide career opportunities.

Food Security

The Ring of Hope Food pantry directly serves the members of the community that suffer from hunger and food insecurity. Inner-City Missions currently distributes food to Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing Community and the surrounding communities every Thursday from 1-3 pm and every fourth Wednesday from 3-6 pm. The pressing need for nutritious food is obvious as hundreds of cars line up each day food is available. Ring of Hope will serve 20,000 families in FY22 through its food distribution work.

Mental Wellness

Currently, Ring of Hope offers Trauma-informed Mentoring through their ‘Keep it Real’ program. Program segments are held daily and overseen by a License Clinical Social Worker. Mentoring follows Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) curriculum which focuses on empowering youth dealing with interpersonal difficulties commonly experienced by youths living in socially undesirable environment. During 2022, they will serve 104 individual students. These programs are designed to identify and manage strong emotions, to develop healthy coping skills to improve self-regulation, conflict resolution, and relationship skills. In this video, Ring of Hope Founder and Executive Director, Pastor Anthony Wright, discusses their current mentorship programming and the need to expand to continue serving their community.

Economic Development

The Greater Grand Crossing community once thrived with local businesses. Ring of Hope seeks to revive the spirit of business and workforce development by supporting local entrepreneurs. Through a partnership with Sunshine Enterprises (SE) and the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement, Ring of Hope plans to support 50 aspiring low-income community entrepreneurs annually. SE partners with local stakeholders around the Chicagoland area to host its Community Business Academy and Business Accelerator Services programming. Ring of Hope will be a site to spur this business development activity in partnership with SE.