Kenneth Griffin said as a young man growing up in Englewood, he didn’t have many positive interactions with the police. That’s part of the reason the trained chef became a Chicago police officer himself — to create connections between young people and the police in his community. It’s also why he started No Matter What, a youth mentoring nonprofit, in 2017.
As part of his programming, Griffin takes teens on trips outside of Chicago. This year’s cohort is headed to Dublin, Ireland, at the end of July.
“About five years ago, I started a program where I took kids to Florida and I recognized that a lot of our kids have never seen outside of Chicago, let alone leaving the state of Illinois,” Griffin said. “And so this year, we have the unique opportunity of taking 15 kids from around Chicago to Ireland, and so we started this cohort this year, 15 kids, all our Chicago public students. They’ve done financial classes with us. They’ve done all type of leadership courses with us. And in doing so, in two weeks, on July 29, we’re going to take them to Ireland for a week in Dublin. While they’re there, we gave the students the opportunity to do different workshops where they learn different things about Dublin — we’re going to visit a few of the museums, the castle that we’re going to visit and then they’re going to actually work inside of one of the restaurants for a day.”
On Juneteenth, No Matter What was given a two-flat building at 65th and Bishop streets by the Cook County Land Bank Authority where Griffin can expand upon his programming. Griffin said he plans to put in a kitchen for culinary classes, an art room and a peace room where first responders can connect with youth. The room will be named to honor his colleague and friend, Officer Aréanah Preston, who was killed while off-duty earlier this year.
Griffin is seeking volunteers to help rehab the building, especially people who have trade knowledge they can share with teen participants. You can find more ways to support No Matter What on its website.
Here, Griffin gives “the last word” on how communities need everyone to dig in and do the work of getting young people the resources they need to live fruitful lives.