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Building Community, One Family at a Time

January 22, 2013

By Robert Schroeder
NLU Alumni Magazine

The city of Waukegan, along the shores of Lake Michigan north of Chicago, has seen its share of violent of crime.  But the 2002 gang-ordered execution-style murders of 16-year-olds David Mackins and Jarreau Patterson, found stuffed in a car trunk in Zion, Ill., threatened to turn Waukegan’s smoldering gang conflicts into a full-scale war.

The community at large, however, had seen enough.  John Caples, pastor of Jesus Name Apostolic Church, reached out to U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), then a Representative in the 10th Congressional District, and the two partnered to launch the Family First Center, whose mission is to strengthen community by placing emphasis on rebuilding the family, repairing division, and developing strategies to empower change.  From day one, the center has been managed by 54-year-old NLU alumna Evelyn Chenier, Ph.D. Community Psychology ‘03.

“[Our clients] feel like we are family, and they call us the caretakers of Lake County,” Evelyn said. “Although we have rules and regulations, we don’t quit until we find an answer, and we service with a heart.”

The center focuses on converting entire lifestyles; for younger clients, the goal is to remove them from the streets, steer them towards a GED, enrolling in college or job training, and eventually obtaining a job.  The Smarties program, working with children ages 8-13, provides after-school enrichment in critical thinking, arts and crafts, drama, math and reading.

For the many adult clients, the focus is often on personal health.  The center offers a free gym and a community health workers program targeting individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.  The center also provides rental, utility and food assistance, not as handouts but as tools to push individuals and families towards the path of self-empowerment.

“We have a young man right now who is destined to become a gang member if he is not caught up and turned around,” Evelyn said of a 13-year old client who carries a gun and has had several close scrapes with the law.  “We have given him a mentor, and we believe this young man is on the right track to turn his life around.”

Read more from the Winter 2013 NLU Alumni Magazine


    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

    122 S. Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60603
    (888) 658.8632
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    Conveniently located in a fast-growing business district off I-90 and Route 31, NLU Elgin features 10 classrooms with high-tech media equipment; a computer lab with high-speed Internet access; two conference rooms; and comfortable student lounges. Parking is free at this recently remodeled and upgraded teaching site, which now includes wireless Internet access.

    620 Tollgate Road
    Elgin, IL 60123
    (888) 658.8632
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    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

    5202 Old Orchard Road
    Skokie, IL 60077
    (888) 658.8632
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    Located just minutes from the East-West Tollway (I-88), NLU Lisle features 42 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a separate walk-in lab in the library; a café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; conference rooms; and six comfortable student lounge areas with wireless access.

    850 Warrenville Road
    Lisle, IL 60532
    (888) 658.8632
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    Located in one of Chicago's major northwest suburbs, the newly renovated NLU Wheeling includes 20 classrooms with high-tech media equipment, four conference rooms, four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, large student lounge areas with wireless capabilities and interactive video capabilities, and an extensive research library. The site also houses the university library research collection.

    1000 Capitol Drive
    Wheeling, IL 60090
    (888) 658.8632
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    Established in 1988 and located in one of Tampa's major business districts, NLU's Florida Regional Center serves students in 13 counties in central Florida. In addition to its classrooms, the National Louis University Tampa Regional Center features a computer lab, student lounges, and conference room.

    5110 Sunforest Drive, Suite 102
    Tampa, FL 33634
    (800) 366.6581
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