Bright Star Community Outreach (BSCO) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has focused on improving the Bronzeville Community for over 9 years. Born out of Bright Star Community Church, they have a strategy which includes developing impactful community development initiatives. Their plan of action targets violence, poor economic opportunities, child safety, drug abuse, inadequate mental health services, and homelessness. BSCO has a mission to strengthen local families and communities as well as empower residents to work collectively, establish relationships, and share the responsibility of building the community. They particularly target the South side of Chicago’s third and fourth ward. There they see an extensive need for more violence prevention measures to be taken and to get the community more involved in being there for one another. The importance of an organization like BSCO is to shed light in all of the dark places and to make sure the voices of minorities are not just heard but taken seriously. There is a need for something different in our communities, and BSCO definitely brings different to the table on a whole new level. There is more to Bronzeville, and all of Chicago, than the violence and vacant lots shown on the news. Organizations like BSCO provide strong backup to our communities so that they do not feel alone, inferior, or powerless.
Their Founder/CEO Is a Pastor
Pastor Christopher T. Harris Sr. is the CEO and founder of BSCO. BSCO was founded in 2009 in response to systemic problems that affected the community of Bronzeville. Pastor Harris is a Chicago native and grew up in the Bronzeville community. Not only is he a voice for individuals in Bronzeville, but he is also a member of the Bronzeville community today. Pastor Harris is a National Council Member of (American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Chairman of the Bronzeville Community Action Council, a member of the University of Chicago Medicine (UCM) Community Advisory Council, and has served as President of the Fourth Ward & Cook County Clergy Coalitions. He is a leader who is leading his own community to better.
They Are a Non-Profit Organization
BSCO is a non-profit organization that has put together programs to tackle the need for violence prevention, community engagement, economic development, education, healthy children/youth and families in the Bronzeville area. They are focused on building a more self-sufficient community. BSCO is committed to empowering the community’s residents with the skills, training, and resources required to be successful. They accomplish their mission through their five pillars: Parent Education, Advocacy, Counseling, Mentoring, and Workforce Development.
They Accomplish Their Mission through Five Pillars
BSCO offers five specific services which include Parent Education, Advocacy, Trauma Counseling, Mentoring, and Workforce Development.
Parent Education. Their Parent Education service provides families with intact family retention and reunion, case management, and social emotional. They have a strong partnership with local universities and the Department of Child and Family Services which allows their Family Advocacy Center to provide families with free services to over 150 families over the course of the year.
Advocacy. Their Advocacy pillar allows the Youth Advocacy Council to orchestrate community assessments, develop program plans, and implement services based on things they’ve found. This advocacy component also includes community assessment and planning which allows data to be collected through youth surveys and be used as a tool to inform some of the pressing topics facing their youth.
Trauma Counseling. BSCO provides Trauma Counseling services that help decrease the number of negative factors that cause violence. They use faith-based leaders and mental health professionals as trauma counselors, inspired by the work of NATAL Israel. They have Helpline Advocates who acts as a bridge to at-risk individuals. They provide help for those who are in distress with long-term emotional support. In this component there are also ambassadors who focus primarily on increasing awareness pertaining to mental health within the Bronzeville community.
Mentoring. BSCO’s fourth pillar is Mentoring. They provide a safe place for children after school to get help with homework, enhance academic and social growth, and provide positive role models that follow up with the children and help make sure the children are making wise decisions. This is orchestrated through their PATS after school program. It is offered five days a week to about 80 students regularly. They also have a Truancy Education and Mentoring (TEAM) program that provides case management to youth who have excessive absences and late arrivals to school. When school is not in session they provide students with a Summer Fun and Enrichment Camp that provides structuring programs, field trips, and a safe haven for kids during the summer.
Workforce Development. “Workforce Development is about community collaboration,” said Nichole Carter, the Director of Community Strategy and Development. “We collaborate with different branches in the community which is what Workforce Development is comprised of.”
Through a series of workshops, they develop programming that will enhance the Bronzeville community. They provide assistance with resume building, training opportunities in hard and soft skills to obtain jobs. They have a partnership with Chicago Public Schools which allowed them to be able to train individuals and provide jobs to residents in Bronzeville and surrounding areas. They have a Safe Passage program that keeps over 2,500 kids safe when traveling to and from school.
Bright Star Community Outreach is located at 4518 S. Cottage Grove, Chicago, Illinois. If you know someone who is in need of Trauma Counseling please call the Trauma Counseling helpline at 833-TURN-123. They are open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9am-6pm.
This article is published as part of Envisioning Justice, a 19-month initiative presented by Illinois Humanities that looks into how Chicagoans and Chicago artists respond to the the impact of incarceration in local communities and how the arts and humanities are used to devise strategies for lessening this impact.
Featured Image: Exterior shot of Bright Star Church. Photo by Tony Smith.
Raelyn Purham is a 22 year old writer in residence for Bright Star Church. She is a creative writer who enjoys having fun on the job and loves expressing her opinions, views, and thoughts on different topics through conversational pieces. The criminal justice system affects everyone either indirectly or directly. Raelyn’s interest in Envisioning Justice is driven by her desire to see change and improvement in this area. We need to reimagine what the criminal justice system should look like, and in order to do that we need to demand attention and shed light in the dark places.