Education Lab, Crime Lab Choose to Change

Recent research from Chicago and elsewhere suggests providing behavioral and mental health supports can help decrease violence involvement and increase academic engagement. These programs, based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) principles, seek to give young people additional tools to navigate their difficult environments — return a sense of safety, slow down their decision-making processes, and increase their social-emotional skillset. Despite the promise of these approaches, there is a dearth of programming for youth who are no longer consistently attending school and those who are already interacting with the justice system. 

A homegrown collaboration between two local nonprofits has developed a promising solution to fill this gap in services and reduce youth violence while improving educational outcomes outside of an institutional setting. In response to a 2015 Design Competition, an initiative launched by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab to crowdsource youth violence prevention interventions from across the city, Children’s Home & Aid and Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. created Choose to Change (C2C): Your Mind, Your Game. C2C is a six-month intervention that offers youth intensive wraparound and professional mentoring services that focus on addressing each young person’s specific needs, with trauma-informed CBT that helps youth process their trauma and develop a new set of decision-making tools. 

Since its launch in 2015 in the greater Englewood communities, C2C has served over 600 youth across the South and West Sides of Chicago. To isolate the impact of the program on young people’s outcomes, C2C partnered with the Crime Lab and Education Lab to rigorously evaluate the program’s impact on behavioral and academic outcomes through a randomized controlled trial.  

For more details on the program model and mid-study results, please see the Research Brief. Final study results are forthcoming and will be available in an academic working paper by researchers Nour Abdul-Razzak and Kelly Hallberg later this year. 

We are greatly appreciative of the support and close partnership with the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Public Schools, and the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office. We would like to thank the following organizations for their support of the Choose to Change program and evaluation: Get IN Chicago, the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation, the McCormick Foundation, AT&T, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, AbbVie, and the Chicago Sports Alliance, comprised of the Chicago Bears, White Sox, Cubs, Bulls, and Blackhawks.  

C2C Press Release C2C Research Brief