Kellogg Fnd. Awards $1 Million Grant to Invest in the Next Generation of Chicago Youth Leadership & Reimagine Mental Health in Communities of Color

September 21, 2021


Communities United/Lurie Children’s Hospital: A Global Finalist for Potential $20 Million Investment

CHICAGO -- Communities United, in partnership with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, is the only Chicago-based finalist of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Equity 2030 Challenge, an open call for bold solutions to drive an equitable future for children, families and communities across the globe. The challenge is awarding $90 million to help build and scale actionable ideas for transformative change in the systems and institutions that uphold racial inequities.

The community organization and hospital will bring together the expertise, experience and leadership of grassroots Black and Brown young people from across Chicago alongside national leaders and practitioners in the field of mental health, partnering to expand leadership among Black and Brown youth and advance healing-centered communities. The partnership's goals are to:

  • Transform the mental health system, from one that focuses on individual treatment to one that supports community healing, and
  • Develop leadership of young people as practitioners of health, healing and advocates for systemic change to address racial inequities.

“Young people who have been through Communities United’s Healing through Justice leadership development model have discovered that when they take action for change, that process in itself creates opportunities for individuals and our community to heal from trauma,” said Laqueanda Reneau, Community Organizer at Communities United.

Through a healing-centered approach, young people from CU and partners from across the West and South sides of the city, in partnership with Lurie Children’s will create a 10-year roadmap to foster youth-led strategies on community healing that centers youth leadership in creating institutional change. 

“Our experience working alongside Communities United youth leadership over the years, confirms our belief that investing in the development of community leadership is critical to the creation of healing-centered communities,” said John T. Walkup, MD, Chair, Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

CU worked with Dr. Walkup and Lurie Children’s in developing the Healing Through Justice leadership development framework and putting its underlying concepts into practice. During the past 10 years CU and Lurie Children’s have worked together to advance collective impact across many systems, such as: ending the zero tolerance expulsion policy in all Illinois public schools and expanding public health approaches such as restorative justice; a community-based participatory research to address underage drinking; engaging youth as advisory members to guide the strategic direction of substance-use-prevention work; working with youth leaders to reform school discipline to be more restorative; and engaging boys and young men of color to advocate for mental and behavioral health transformation.

“We believe this initiative can dramatically impact positive health and mental health outcomes in areas associated with historical trauma and structural racism,” Walkup said.

This investment opportunity comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues to magnify issues across communities of color that pre-existed the pandemic, including poverty and trauma stemming from decades-long community divestment. This divestment has resulted in widespread disparities and generational trauma.

“We want to lead the transformation of our city that values the identities of Black and Brown youth, and where we are able to flourish in our communities,” said Marques Watts, a Communities United youth leader who lost his brother and best friend to violence over the past year and has been leading healing-centered activities with other young people. “Our experiences are the knowledge that we use to create healing-centered communities and the investments that are needed for generations to come.”

Each of the 10 finalist teams will receive a one-year $1 million planning grant, which includes nine months of capacity-building support to further develop their project and strengthen their application.

Among the finalists, five awards totaling $80 million will be announced in the summer of 2022. Three awardees will each receive a $20 million grant and two awardees will each receive a $10 million grant. Grants will be paid out over eight years to coincide with W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s 100th anniversary in 2030.

The 10 finalists’ projects are listed below in alphabetical order:



Communities United: An intergenerational racial justice organization in Chicago. CU develops grassroots leadership to build collective power to achieve racial justice and transformative social change. CU focuses on advancing health equity, affordable housing, education justice, youth investment, immigrant rights, police accountability, and shifting resources from the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems into restorative justice alternatives. For more information go to


Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 220,000 children from 48 states and 49 countries, with over half of its patients insured by Medicaid and more than one-third living in under-resourced communities.

The hub for community health initiatives at Lurie Children’s is the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities. The Magoon Institute facilitates partnerships and programs between Lurie Children’s and the community to address root causes of health disparities and advance health equity for youth.

Lurie Children’s Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health provides high-quality inpatient, partial hospitalization and outpatient behavioral health services to children and adolescents. We are the largest provider for ADHD and Trauma-Related Disorders in the 7-County Chicagoland Area, and among the top five providers (by volume) of all pediatric outpatient mental health services. In FY 20, more than one-third of the children we serve in our inpatient behavioral health programs and 60 percent of children in our outpatient programs are insured by Medicaid. For more information go to