Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has returned to Chicago for a new job working with disconnected youth, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“On the one hand, it felt great to come home to Chicago. On the other hand, it’s a really, really hard time here in the city. … I just couldn’t come home and watch this, stay on the sidelines,” he said, according to the Times.
Through his new position as managing partner at Emerson Collective, Duncan is exploring innovative methods to help the young adults, 17 to 24, on the fringes of society. Instead of high school diplomas, many of them have criminal records and gang affiliations.
In his final speech as education secretary, Duncan lamented the gun violence that he said took the lives of 16,000 young people during the first six years of his tenure, the Washington Post reported.
“We have to get guns out of the wrong people’s hands. We have to make sure our babies are safe,” he said, according to the Post.
It has been a particular problem in Chicago. As The Atlantic reported, last year the city saw 2,300 shootings by September 2015—that’s an average of eight every day. It was an especially violent year, with a 21 percent increase in homicides compared to 2014.
To enable these young adults to turn away from gangs requires helping them find alternative sources of income, Duncan acknowledged. “If kids have hope, they don’t pick up guns,” he stated, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But the reality is that employers shun applicants with a criminal record and who lack at least a high school education. So Duncan plans to create training programs and raise funds to help participants who want to start their own businesses.
The Emerson Collective is an education group based in Palo Alto, and funded and led by Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow, reports the Times.