I am a proud graduate of Harold Washington College. I hold both an undergraduate and graduate degree from Robert Morris University and am currently in my second year of law school at DePaul University College of Law. But I would not be in the position I’m in today if it weren’t for certain luck and circumstances afforded in my life.

My life has developed through living in different countries, various large cities, ranging economies from privilege to homelessness, and many different cultures. My experiences have convinced me that society thrives when more people contribute in an inclusive environment and to the economic success of the culture. Society faces more challenges when there are formidable limits to those who are at risk or represent an underclass. Cities that provide an avenue to limit obstacles for the underclass, while helping all citizens obtain equal opportunities, are better places to live for everyone.

Chicago Sky: Nikki Childers

Nikki Childers

As a second year law student and business development associate with the Chicago Sky, I am utilizing the State of Illinois’ recently amended law concerning juvenile arrest record expungement to help those who face challenges in Chicago while promoting economic success.

Juvenile arrest records are a burden on all society; they do not necessarily result in charges being filed or a court-ordered conviction. Studies show that unfortunately, juvenile arrest records have a disproportionately negative impact on people of color, and those exposed to lower economic and educational opportunities in our communities.

Especially for those who were not convicted, if a juvenile arrest record is not automatically expunged, it can follow people’s lives forever. Juvenile records can prohibit school financial aid, employment, and state-provided assistance.

A juvenile with the right luck and circumstance can find a way to have his or her arrest record expunged through legal means. But a juvenile with tough circumstances and bad luck cannot be expected to manage the expungement process without the knowledge or resources. They may not appreciate the impact their juvenile record has on their future. Many do not know that the State of Illinois has a regulated “point” system that a juvenile record contributes greatly toward. Accumulation of points increases the likelihood of a future of longer, more aggressive sentences for additional transgressions.

It is this misfortune of luck and circumstance that inspired the Clear Skies Initiative. The Chicago Sky women’s professional basketball team and Sky Cares Foundation are helping lead the way to aid circumstance-affected youth with the expungement process so that they will have a chance at a better life.

This pipeline problem of youth offenders accumulating points in the juvenile criminal system, being labeled career offenders, and then sentenced as adult offenders begins at a drastically young age. This issue was identified by Illinois, and as a response, a new state law now allows for the juvenile records to be expunged after the appropriate wait times, depending on if charges are filed.

The Chicago Sky has taken on the challenge of collaborating with the courts, law enforcement, city administration, pro-bono legal aid, and the city clerk’s office to help educate the public in the process of petitioning for juvenile arrest expungement in the city. The team at the Sky is committed to the empowerment of women through athletic accomplishments and contributing to the great Chicago community in a broad-based form.

A visit to one of our community partners, the Englewood Data Hub run by Janice Feinberg, sparked the interest and idea that through our 501(c)(3) foundation, Sky Cares, we can facilitate a bridge to connect communities to city resources as well as connect the city itself to come together and help the young people of Chicago. Using the knowledge of the new law and the innovative executives of the Chicago Sky, the Clear Skies Initiative found its origin.

Since the early summer, the Clear Skies Initiative has accumulated the County Clerk’s Office, Chicago Juvenile Probation, Secretary of State, State’s Attorney’s Office, and many practicing attorneys and law school students as partners. On Oct. 27, 2018, all of these partners will converge at XS Tennis Village on Chicago’s South Side to work for people with juvenile records, excluding felonies, within the framework of the existing statute. We will also provide additional services to encourage the economic success of all participants such as a job fair with large, influential employers; paths to higher education; state ID unit; and scholarship opportunities.

The city will all come together to provide equal opportunity to all citizens, to make life better for all. Many of the young people attending the Clear Skies Initiative will have the same talent and desire as I have; yet, their circumstances have given them a significant challenge that only a legal expungement can improve.

I hope that all of the participants of the Clean Slate Summit will see my life as an example of how anyone can become an economic producer and not an underclass resident for life. The betterment of our society depends on efforts such as the Chicago Sky’s Clear Skies Initiative. This summit shows that the Chicago Sky is more than a sports team; it’s a solid staple in the betterment of the communities of Chicago, leading the way toward direct and sustainable impact. I am proud to be a part of an organization that takes the impactful ideas of its employees and feels the commitment to bring it to fruition.

For more information on the Clear Skies Initiative, the FREE summit, or to donate to assist with expenses and scholarships for those working toward a clean slate, please visit the Chicago Sky website.

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