Letter from the editors

How do people live their lives each day surrounded by violence?

How is it fair that city violence is breaking news in newspapers and television news stations, but those who work diligently and endlessly to halt acts of violence don’t get any media coverage at all?

That’s pertinent to our issue — bringing a positive light to those working to end violence and to break stereotypes.

The staff of this magazine also had a mission to dig deeper into stories to find the human connection. From an organization serving school children, to a South Side Rapper/Music Director, to a retired Chicago police officer, to a pediatric emergency room/ child abuse doctor at one of the city’s busiest children’s hospitals, we found those human connections.

We traveled to the neighborhoods most affected by the violence: West Garfield Park, Englewood, Hyde Park, Austin and more. Through the interviews, photographs and videos, our staff remained dedicated and professional.

Throughout the design process, we found ways to illustrate these stories clearly and effectively. We used photographs, data and other graphics to bring the people, organizations and neighborhoods to life on each page.

What we found is bigger than just the stories in this magazine. With the city facing what can be considered to be a crisis, individuals and organizations across the city are dedicating their time and talents to service that promotes justice.

Here at Loyola we don’t just commend that behavior, we strive to live it through cura personalis, or caring for the whole person. This value is one of the five we are taught from day one on campus.

In the end, this experience has taught us more about reporting and opened our eyes to the people at the heart of Chicago. These lessons aren’t taught in the classroom but out of it, and because of this experiential learning opportunity, we are extremely grateful.

Without all of our dedicated reporters, photographers and designers this magazine would not have been possible. We also would like to thank our professors, John Slania and Jessica Brown for their guidance.



No detention, only stability

The house is getting noisier on a Monday afternoon. The kids have come home hungry from school. Snacks are handed out. In a few minutes, everyone will come together to talk about their day before they start preparing for dinner.

After dinner, the kids will do their chores and once again meet in groups, discussing current events, career planning and mental health. Then they will have some free time to call family members, clean their rooms or complete homework before lights go out at 10 p.m.

At 5:30 the next morning, the kids will do it all over again—unless they have a court date.

In that case, the staff at the Manuel Saura Center in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, where the kids reside, will take them to their court appointment.

The center is a residential program that acts as an alternative to juvenile detention, allowing youth to have a secure and stable place to stay for up to 30 days.

The Saura Center and similar programs aim to keep youth away from the common stereotypes within the justice system, like institutionalization and repeat offenders, as well as the negative effects of detention centers on children’s mental health, education and overall development.

Stephanie Boho-Rodriguez, the Director of the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Programing in Chicago, has been with the Saura Center since it opened almost 21 years ago.

“We started in 1995 as a pilot program,” Boho-Rodriguez said. “The Cook County juvenile courts were looking for some alternative programing to secure detention, so they partnered with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and started the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiatives.”

Amanda McDonald

A mural was painted in the basement of the Manuel Saura Center in Logan Square by participants within the alternative youth program. It represents going from the dark to the light.

Other similar youth programs in Chicago include home confinement, day or evening treatment, group homes and specialized foster care, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency in a 2014 study.

Substitutes to secure detention “were developed in response to research indicating that detention and confinement may do more harm than good” for children, according to the study.

“We are considered to be the most restrictive because the kids actually get court ordered to live here in a residential setting,” Boho-Rodriguez said.

The number of juvenile arrests in Chicago in 2013 approached 21,500. While that number decreased in 2014 to just over 17,700, 19.1 percent of the arrests in those years resulted in the juvenile going to a detention center, according to a report published by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, an advisory group dedicated to safeguarding juvenile justice.

The Saura Center receives referral participants directly from the court system or from police departments within the county and can house up to 36 kids at once. The participants range from ages 10 to 17, can be male or female and must have a pending case. Youth with histories of arson, overt sexual behaviors or homicidal or suicidal tendencies are not accepted into the program.

Most participants are assessed as to whether they need to be in secure custody following their arrest. From there, they are either sent home or referred to the center. Referrals can come in 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Once the child arrives at the four-story Logan Square location, he or she goes through an orientation and is assigned a case manager.

Day-to-day activities include craft and cooking groups, chores, and on the weekends, outside activities for those who held a 90 percent success rating in their weekly point and level system. Participants start each day with 100 points and can lose them based on various offenses such as cursing (five points), verbal abuse to other participants (11 points) or verbal abuse to staff (16 points).

Those who kept their point total above 90 each day are awarded by moving up a level. Certain levels are allowed to travel with the group to see movies, go bowling or to exercise at Planet Fitness, which offers free services to the center.

While their schedule is extremely structured, consistency is key, according to several participants whose names have been changed to protect their privacy.

“This was a blessing,” David said. “[Juvenile Detention] wasn’t for me. Here, I do chores.”

Another male participant, John, also complimented the structure of each day.

“They give everybody a job,” he said.

Matthew commented on being able to connect with the other participants due to their similar circumstances.

“I know everybody in here likes basketball, sports and girls,” he said. “[It’s] a place where I get to come and think.”

The increased violence in Chicago has affected the Manuel Saura Center. Homicides have risen in the city by nearly 55 percent compared to 2015. The number of children who come in with gun related charges has gone up, Boho-Rodriguez said. Those include unlawful weapons charges, strong-armed robbery and vehicular hijacking with a weapon.

Despite the rise in violent gun offenses, Case Manager Jennifer Lucatero sees the positive effect of the program every day when she comes to work.

“None of them want to be here, but they’re lucky to be here,” Lucatero said. “It’s cool because they come in with a defense mechanism, but you see them act their age again.”

The success rate of alternative programming is promising. Those who participated in alternative treatment programs were significantly less likely to enter into the justice system within a year of completing their program. In addition, boys in alternative programming were seen to have a “larger reduction in official criminal referral rates, [and] fewer self-reported criminal activities” than others, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention study.

For Boho-Rodriguez, Lucatero and the other staff members, having a participant leave the program “successful,” or leave without getting a violation is the most rewarding feeling. Instilling the mantra that these kids can do something positive with their lives is the ultimate goal.

“We have to make them wander outside of the street life…[and] let them know that there’s a life outside of gangs,” Lucatero said. “When they get slapped with labels their whole lives they start to believe them.”

The participants see the work the staff does, and many are appreciative.

“They deal with kids with attitude… They take time out of their day to take care of kids they didn’t bring into this world,” Daivd, a high school senior, said.

Once he leaves the program, he does not want to come back. This is not in a negative sense, but because he wants to go to college. Through clinical and focus groups dedicated to education and college, he learned he has options besides returning into the justice system.

“Once I leave here,” he said, “I want to start my own businesses.”

Mental gymnastics

When Dr. Venna Ramaiah gets home from a late night emergency room shift, she often only has a few hours to close her eyes, ease her mind and rest. The next morning, she has to go to work again, digging through files, seeing patients and trying to solve child abuse cases.

The 45-year-old pediatric physician splits her time between ER and child abuse work at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, located in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago.

Ramaiah treats children in one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city where shootings have risen this year by nearly 12 percent, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“[This] idea that I can see one kid who has a bullet in his shoulder and two weeks later I can see a kid who has a bullet through his lung or his heart or his aorta and he didn’t make it, and the difference is six inches,” Ramaiah said. “I have been here since 2000, and we just see a lot of that on the South Side of Chicago.”

Amanda McDonald

Ramaiah stands in an emergency room at the Comer Children’s Hospital on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park, Chicago.

The physician and second generation Indian American started medical school in 1991 studying to be an obstetrician at Albany Medical College in New York. She ended up in pediatrics with a special interest in child abuse. After completing her residency, she became American Board certified in pediatrics and sub board certified in child abuse.

“There’s a lot of layover because in the emergency medicine world you have to learn a lot about injuries,” Ramaiah said. “You’re deciding if something needs to be treated, how it needs to be treated… and so the segue into child abuse work is actually pretty natural.”

Her time in the emergency room is usually spent treating level one traumas and blunt traumas. Level one trauma centers are able to care for a patient throughout their stay—from the initial screening until the care and rehabilitation process, according to the American Trauma Society. They also place a high level of focus on patient education.

National penetrating trauma rates, or stabbings and gunshot wounds, are about 6 percent among level one trauma centers, while Comer’s are nearly double that, according to Ramaiah.

While in the ER, Ramaiah works with Dr. Lisa McQueen, the director of the Pediatric Residency Program and the Pediatric Emergency Fellowship Program. McQueen credits Ramaiah with being a calm, level headed and trustworthy physician, which is not easy in her line of work.

Amanda McDonald

“If there’s a controversial case or a patient who has been in the news…she remains really objective,” McQueen said. “I think that allows her to always have the highest degree of integrity.”

Dr. Jill Glick, the medical director of the Child Advocacy and Protective Services (CAPS) office where she and Ramaiah also work with child abuse victims, believes Ramaiah is well suited for both the ER and child abuse.

“I recognized immediately…that she was interested in the medicine forensically, through her ER work she recognized the huge need and demand in doctors willing to work with child welfare, police and various agencies including going to court to help the society respond to the issue of child abuse,” Glick said.

With a majority of her time spent treating children who have been injured or abused, regardless of intention, Ramaiah said it is easy to get burned out, especially through all of what she calls “mental gymnastics” from one specialty to the other.

“When we have a really horrific abuse case, or in the ER if I have a death from a trauma… one thing that we have to have as physicians, especially in the ER and even more importantly with child abuse work, is the ability to compartmentalize,” Ramaiah said. “And even after all of these years of doing it, whenever I have to tell a parent that their child died, I get teary eyed … it sounds silly [and] I don’t want to seem less professional, but we are all human.”

Part of how she compartmentalizes is by spending time with her husband and two daughters, running or traveling. She is also thankful for cable television that allows her, after a long ER shift that ends around 11 p.m., to come home and watch reruns of “Friends” or “Big Bang Theory.”

By next July, Ramaiah hopes to shift her 50 percent split between the ER and child abuse work into 30 percent ER and 70 percent child abuse because as she gets older, child abuse cases are more interesting to her while ER work is more strenuous.

“We would love it if we didn’t have consults anymore,” Ramaiah said, “if there wasn’t as much concern or incidents of abuse, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.”

At the end of the day Ramaiah is still a mother, wife, daughter, sister, coworker, teacher and friend, no matter what happens inside the hospital. This idea keeps her three worlds—ER, child abuse and home—balanced.

“I go home and I hug my kids harder and I tell my family that I love them,” she said, “because what you really come away with is the sometimes unpredictability of life.”