Fearless Leading by the Youth

The Fearless Leading by the Youth Program
works to nurture young people’s visions for change 
by supporting Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY).

Through FLY youth members plan and carry out their own campaigns: The Audy Home Campaign and the Trauma Center Campaign.

The Audy Home Campaign is a campaign to
develop the leadership of youth impacted by
juvenile incarceration to close the Audy Home and
replace it with alternative programs in the different
neighborhoods where youth are getting locked up.
The Audy Home Campaign is led by an alliance
between FLY, Center of Change (C2), Blocks Together, and BUILD, Inc.

The Trauma Center Campaign advocates for the development of a trauma center on the South Side.

History of FLY

The FLY Program began in 2007 when tenants involved in STOP’s housing work began thinking about how they could engage their sons and daughters around issues that directly affect youth. With that goal in mind, STOP launched a community organizing summer internship program. Over the course of the program the youth developed their own organization: Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), which the Youth Justice Program supports in organizing and leadership development.

During the first summer internship program, participatns were outraged by stories from friends and family about escalating violence, abuse, and neglect inside the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center (commonly known by its original name, the Audy Home). In response to these conditions, FLY joined forces with another youth organization, Generation Y (Gen Y) of the Southwest Youth Collaborative and launched the Audy Home Project.  The goals of the project are to pressure the center’s administration to establish humane conditions in the detention center, and reform the juvenile justice system by developing community- based alternatives to child incarceration.

The Audy Home Project organized a press conference outside of a Cook County Board meeting where they delivered 100 pairs of underwear for Audy Home residents (who were being denied clean underwear) and demanded immediate humane conditions. Though FLY and Gen Y’s gift was never delivered, the staff immediately responded by providing the youth with clean underwear.

FLY also conducted a research project documenting abuses in the Audy Home through interviews with former detainees, which they compiled with outside research. They shared their findings at a teach-in attended by the Audy Home director. At the teach-in FLY and Gen Y were granted regular monitoring tours of the Audy Home.

For the past two years, FLY and Gen Y have been conducting tours and meeting with detention center administration to learn about the juvenile justice system and push for reforms. We have also built relationships with people key to implementing reforms.

In the summer of 2010, Damian Turner, a leader and co-founder of FLY, was shot and killed in the crossfire of a drive-by. Damian was taken past the University of Chicago Hospital—only three blocks away—to Northwestern Hospital, where he died. FLY youth discovered that the reason he was taken so far is the lack of trauma centers on the Southside. In response to his passing, FLY has started a project to get a trauma center on the Southside. Expanding access to healthcare is something Damian fought for inside the Audy Home. If there was a trauma center on the Southside, he might be alive today standing with us. Damian was a fixture on the block. His death touched every part of it and brought many people together. The Trauma Center Project is channeling this unity and energy to make it grow.
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