top of page
Recycled Paper
HTJ Youth Committee.jpg

Healing Through Justice

A Youth-led Breakthrough Strategy For Healing-Centered Communities

One of Five Global Awardees of the
W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s $80 Million
Racial Equity 2030 Challenge.

At a time when we are facing a national youth mental health crisis, Chicago youth are leading a first-of-its kind partnership between Communities United and Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago to advance youth-led solutions that promote community healing. 

Communities United was recently awarded $10 million through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Equity 2030 Challenge. The award will support CU’s partnership with Lurie Children’s to advance “Healing Through Justice: A Community-led Breakthrough Strategy for Healing Centered Communities.” 


Our initiative was selected among 1,453 submissions from 72 countries around the world after a process of multiple levels of review, feedback, and diligence involving peer applicants and multi-disciplined experts from across the world.

Recycled Paper


January 2022 MLK Event.png

January 2012

Communities United develops Healing Through Justice framework out hundreds of narratives of young people who experience healing through their involvement.

 September 2017

CU develops partnership with John Walkup MD, Chair, Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

August 2021

The Healing Through Justice Initiative named as one of top ten finalists in W.K Kellogg Foundation's Racial Equity 2030 Challenge.  

October 2021

Youth leaders present on Healing Through Justice at the National Community Leadership Summit, hosted by the Vital Village Networks at Boston Medical Center.

January 2022

Youth lead MLK day event on systemic racism in the health system with over 200 health practitioners and leaders from Lurie Children’s.

Youth Narratives.jpg
Ujima Release.jpg

February 2022


March 2022

Safety Task Force 2.JPEG
Presentation National Association of State Mental Health.JPG

May 2022

Youth leaders give testimony at the Illinois Public Safety and Anti-Violence Task Force on survivor-led solutions.

August 2022

CU & Lurie Children's present to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors on the Healing Through Justice Initiative.

October 2022

The Healing Through Justice Initiative named among one of five global awardees of the W.K Kellogg Foundation's Racial Equity 2030 Challenge.

CU & Lurie Children's hold roundtable with young women of color, gender non-conforming youth, and health practitioners of color to share their stories and identify resources needed to support healing.

CU Youth leaders in partnership with Lurie Children’s release “Changing the Beat of Mental Health” a youth-led research on the challenges and solutions to address the mental health and wellness among young men of color.

Dot Paint Splatter

What is Healing Through Justice?

Over the past 10 years, Communities United developed the Healing Through Justice (HTJ) model, a youth leadership approach that acknowledges that the process of young people acting on their vision and solutions to address issues impacting them and their families can lead to transformative health and mental health outcomes.

Through its HTJ model, CU engages young people of color who conduct youth-led research, build alliances, and lead strategies and advocacy campaigns that are grounded in their lived experiences to create change in their communities.

Learn More

In partnership with John Walkup, MD, Chair, Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children’s, the Healing Through Justice model has emerged as a promising model to create breakthroughs in the field of youth development and mental health. Communities United and Lurie Children’s are embarking on an 8-year path to document, evaluate, and disseminate new youth-led strategies, and their engagement with systems, to address deep-rooted challenges facing youth of color across our city.


"It’s very exciting to know that our work is being recognized, especially at this moment when we are seeing a lot of need for healing in our communities. Being part of the work to create change in my community has helped me in my healing journey, and I have witnessed the same effect on my friends. We are ready to continue to grow our work and engage institutions on how they can support our vision for healing in our communities."

–Bezaleia "Bezzy" Reed, Communities United Youth Leader

Recycled Paper


Dr. Walkup.jpg

John Walkup, MD
Chair of the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Over the course of his career Dr. Walkup has moved from developing the evidence base for the treatment of childhood onset mental health conditions to addressing through community based participatory...


Meyiya Coleman
Healing Through Justice Trainer

Marques Watts.jpg
Jade 1.jpg

Emily Jade Aguilar
Youth Organizer

Raul Botello.jpg
Maria Paula Degillo.jpg

Raul Botello
Co-Executive Director of Communities United

Jenny Arwade
Co-Executive Director of Communities United

Maria Paula Degillo
VOYCE Coordinator & Youth Director

Meyiya Coleman started as a volunteer youth leader with Communities United when she was in high school, and is now a Youth Organizer working to develop a next generation of young people as leaders in our communities. She was...

Marques is a youth leader organizing to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and uplift solutions driven by young people to redefine what it means to be safe in our schools and communities. He also serves as president of the...

Emily got involved with CU in 2016 as a youth leader, in 2020 she became CU’s Operational Manager. As a proud transgender woman of color, Emily has devoted her life to the young people of Chicago and creating safe spaces for...

Raul has developed and evolved the organization’s approach to healing-centered youth development which has served as a catalyst for this breakthrough initiative. This work has been recognized with a "Hope & Courage" Award from...

Jenny has 18 years of organizing experience, drawing on her own lived experience. Jenny has supported young people in creating the nation’s most comprehensive statewide school discipline reform in Illinois, advancing innovative solutions...

Maria Paula started with the organization in 2006 as a volunteer youth leader after she was pushed out of school. In 2016, she became the Youth Director and Coordinator with the Voices of Youth in Chicago Education...

Recycled Paper


NOW THIS Healing Through Justice.png
Washington Post.png
Chalkbeat Chicago.png
Chicago Tribune.png
ABC News.png

President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on the Racial Equity 2030 initiative and reveals five awardees who will split $80 million to go toward the future of racial equity.

Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 6.37.26 PM.png
Chicago Tonight WTTW.png


Mental health resources

The research — presented Monday at Lurie Children’s in the hopes of securing $20 million to foster youth-led strategies on community healing and bettering mental health in Chicago.

Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 7.54.07 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 8.03.47 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 8.00.03 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 7.50.15 PM.png
Caleb Mural group shot.jpg
Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 7.45.32 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 7.01.27 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 7.36.46 PM.png
Recycled Paper

For more information or to get involved, please contact Laqueanda Reneau at or at 773.649.9391

To support this work, please contact Jenny Arwade at or 773.649.6882

Raul Botello at or 773.649.6497

bottom of page