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Mr. McHenry

June 01, 2010 by Brenda

Most of you might not know Mr.Clifton, a former Humboldt Park block club president. An active member of his community, he worked tirelessly to improve the neighborhood but the gangs did not like the changes he was making and they routinely beat up his son and burnt down his garage. After Mr.Clifton’s experience with the local gangs, people became intimidated and afraid of making changes in the neighborhood.  This is the reason there aren’t any block clubs in West Humboldt Park.

I learned about Mr.Clifton while talking to Mr. McHenry, a twenty year resident of the Humboldt Park neighborhood.  Mr.McHenry is an attendance coordinator at West Park Academy.  He is one of the few people who I know that I know from my neighborhood who can tell me about how it has changed throughout time.

I learn that there are things that have been around for awhile, like Jimmy’s Hot Dogs, a very popular place known city-wide. Unfortunately though, gangs and violence have also been a part of the neighborhood for some time. People who have lived in Chicago for a while will tell you that Humboldt Park is not the safest place to live.

‘How safe is the neighborhood, Mr. McHenry?’

‘Not safe enough, depends on the season. It’s better than it used to be but there is still at least one shooting every summer.’

Some things have changed here, like the demographics. When Mr. McHenry first moved to the neighborhood there were mostly Caucasians and African Americans and today the neighborhood consists mostly of African Americans and Latinos.

There has also been a lot of business development.  Mr.McHenry is very happy with all the new stores that are opening up and bringing jobs to the community.  The shopping area by North and Grand Ave is his favorite place.  He also tells me about West Park Academy.  It has been there for the past 12 years.  It solved a crowding issue that Nobel a nearby elementary school had.  It also brought a lot of new programs and activities for kids and parents. Apparently there are a few after school programs but they are primarily run by West Park and he is not aware of any job training programs. There is also the YSP, Youth Service Project that is located by North Ave and Pulaski.  He has heard that they offer some classes for kids but he does not know much about it. Apparently they have been there for years.

More youth programs may be great for the neighborhood but Mr. McHenry believes that true change will only come through deeper parental involvement in their children’s lives.

Adults need to be more active, they are the driving force. Despite this Mr.McHenry has shown that even if you come from a rough family you don’t have to go to jail, and can still live a regular life.  Mr.McHenry inspired me so much that I signed up to be a candidate of the Local School Council.