Search for Programs to Help YouthSearch for Programs to Help Youth

Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development Program (BUILD)

Ages 10-17

Rating: Level 3


Chicago, Ill.’s BUILD (for Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development) program combines several popular gang prevention strategies in an ambitious attempt to curb gang violence in some of the city’s most depressed and crime-ridden neighborhoods. Founded on the principle that youths join gangs because they lack other, more constructive opportunities and outlets, BUILD tries to “reach out to young people and provide alternatives to increasing violence” by

  • Deploying trained street workers, who seek to establish a rapport with gang-involved youth and serve as positive role models
  • Organizing afterschool sports programs and other recreational activities for at-risk and gang-involved youths
  • Designing and delivering violence prevention curricula in local schools
  • Designing and delivering a violence prevention curriculum at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center
  • Providing career training, college counseling, and financial aid to students from low-income schools
  • Working with corporate sponsors, community leaders, parents, and activists to coordinate local antiviolence initiatives and coalitions

Established in 1969 to address gang violence in Chicago’s West Town community, BUILD has since expanded its activities to six other low-income, high-crime areas (Cabrini–Green, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Ravenswood, Lakeview, and Uptown). The program’s violence prevention curriculum at the local detention center reaches both male and female youths from throughout Cook County. BUILD estimates its various activities to date have involved more than 77,000 youths from around the Chicago area.


In 1999 a team of researchers from Loyola University examined the impact of BUILD’s detention center curriculum on detainees’ recidivism rates. Their evaluation used a quasi-experimental design—comparing a random sample of 60 BUILD students with a matched random sample of 60 detainees who received no BUILD instruction. While some girls were included in the program, most participants were African-American males, ages 10–17. Juveniles in both the treatment and control groups were released into the community after their stays and followed for 1 year to determine their rates of recidivism and time to recidivism. The amount of time (or number of classroom days) BUILD participants were involved in the program was also tracked to determine whether length of stay affected recidivism patterns.

In the mid-1990s the Center for Latino Research at DePaul University also conducted an 18-month nonexperimental process evaluation, assessing the implementation of all of BUILD’s programs in two of its target communities: Cabrini–Green and Uptown. This evaluation collected service records and qualitative data from interviews with staff, clients, focus groups, site visits, and monthly reports to form a subjective impression of how well BUILD staff were meeting their stated objectives of community resource development, prevention, and remediation.


The Loyola study of BUILD’s detention program found that BUILD youths had significantly lower recidivism rates than their counterparts from the control group. According to the study, only 33 percent of BUILD youths recidivated within 1 year, versus 57 percent of non-BUILD participants. BUILD participants who did recidivate also had a longer average time to recidivism than youths from the control group (9.6 months versus 7.6 months). Finally, the study found that BUILD students who recidivated spent significantly fewer days in the BUILD classroom (an average of 6.17) than nonrecidivators (an average of 9.35 days).

The Center for Latino Research’s process evaluation of BUILD found that the program was extremely well implemented. Overall, the team reported, “the program’s objectives were accomplished and in many instances exceeded, [owing] to the efforts of BUILD’s dedicated staff.“ BUILD’s policy of hiring staff with strong connections to the local community (including former gang members) and its strong emphasis on staff development were repeatedly identified as critical factors in the program’s success.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early sexual involvement
  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Poor refusal skills
  • Teen parenthood
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Broken home
  • Family history of the problem behavior/Parent criminality


  • Dropping out of school
  • Inadequate school climate/Poorly organized and functioning schools/Negative labeling by teachers
  • Low academic achievement
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school
  • School suspensions
  • Truancy/Frequent absences


  • Community crime/High crime neighborhood
  • Community instability
  • Neighborhood youth in trouble
  • Social and physical disorder/Disorganized neighborhood


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Gang involvement/Gang membership

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Opportunities for prosocial family involvement


  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults


  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Prosocial opportunities for participation / Availability of neighborhood resources
  • Rewards for prosocial community involvement


  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


Thompson, David, and Leonard A. Jason. 1986. “Effective School-Based Intervention: The Evaluation of BUILD’s Gang Membership Prevention Program.” Final Evaluation Report. Chicago, Ill.: Dysfunctioning Child Center of Michael Reese Hospital.

Lurigio, Arthur, G. Bensiger, and S.R. Thompson. 2000. “A Process and Outcome Evaluation of Project BUILD: Years 5 and 6.” Unpublished Report. Chicago, Ill.: Loyola University, Department of Criminal Justice.

Mendez, Mervin. Positive Choices. Chicago, Ill: DePaul University, Center for Latino Research.


Freddy Calixto
Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development
1223 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
Phone: (773) 227-2880
Fax: (773) 227-3012
Web site:

Technical Assistance Provider

Freddy Calixto
1223 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
Phone: (773) 227-2880
Web site: