BRAVE Summer Camp 2019

The purpose of the BRAVE (Building Resilience Against Violence Engagement) project is to develop and implement a comprehensive, innovative, evidence-based, community-focused, culturally and linguistically appropriate “BRAVE Violence Prevention and Crime Reduction Model” for minority youth that can be readily replicated and utilized in African American, Hispanic and Asian American youth. The project is targeting 100 experimental minority youth with a matched 100 control group youth ages 12-15, (40 African American, 30 Hispanic and 30 Asian American youth in each group) in five impoverished and high-crime communities in Chicago.

The goals of the BRAVE project are to:

1. Increase the capacity of ethnic minority youth and their family to access public health services

2. Reduce BRAVE youth risk of exposure to violence and crime; and

3. Improve health and well-being by strengthening resilience and empowerment factors by incorporating public health and community-oriented policing approaches

During the summer, the BRAVE project offers 6 weeks of camp at each site location, including a week at Loyola University Chicago Lake Shore campus with one overnight in a dormitory. This year, the BRAVE Loyola University Lake Shore day camp was held from Monday, July 29 to Friday, August 2nd at the Damen Student Center. There were approximately 30 students from By the Hand-Englewood, Centro Romero, Lincoln Park High School, and the Vietnamese Association of Illinois who attended.  BRAVE partner staff and Loyola School of Social Work Masters level interns served as camp counselors.

While at camp, BRAVE students had opportunities to meet one another across various sites while being involved in social and recreational enrichment activities. The camp included athletic programming through the Halas Recreation Center.  One of the most enjoyed activities there was swimming. Students loved both the swim instruction and playing with the aquatic equipment at the pool. At Halas, students also had access to rock climbing instruction and experience at the indoors rock wall facility. During various times, when needing a break from the physical activities, students also had access to the nearby student center basement where they could play billiards or ping-pong.

After lunch was provided every afternoon, BRAVE students participated in team building activities. Classrooms in the Damen Center were reserved for small groups led by the camp counselors.  During this time, BRAVE students worked on problem solving, turn taking, and socialization. The activities were play-based and at times lightheartedly competitive. They allowed students to meet others across agencies. The BRAVE youth were also exposed to various motivational speakers who presented on topics such as self-care, dating/relationships, and career planning. One of the most popular speakers gave a presentation on drones. She taught the youth about drones’ various uses in business, career opportunities, and the role of drones in the future. The presenter even took a group photo and recorded a video of the campers and staff using her own drone!

Students had access to the 39′ rock climbing wall in Loyola’s Halas Rec Center

When camp came to a close, the staff made some positive observations about the BRAVE youth.  A common theme was noticing how much the students enjoyed having opportunity to practice autonomy and be free from their daily pressures of home and family life.  

The students appreciated “having the option to make choices.” – BRAVE Camp Counselor

They [students] liked “being independent and making their own decisions.” -Brave Camp Counselor

“They [students] love having the option to choose activities they want to participate in for the day.” -Brave Camp Counselor

Additionally, the staff shared their positive experiences engaging the students in a new and fun environment. They enjoyed “bonding with the students”, watching them “interacting with each other”, and appreciated the “sense of community”  the camp created. -BRAVE Camp Counselors

The BRAVE project is funded by DHHS, Office of Minority Health since 2017 and administrated by Dr. Caleb Kim (Principal Investigator) and Co-PIs (Drs. Terri Kilbane and Rana Hong). Jessica Rosenthal, LCSW, an alum of SSW, is the Project Manager.  If you have any questions about BRAVE, contact Jessica at