Altgeld Gardens housing projects in Chicago, IL (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Altgeld Gardens housing projects in Chicago, IL (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

(The Atlantic) – Like many mothers raising children in Chicago’s housing projects in the 1990s and 2000s, Seitia Harris was afraid of the drugs and violence that were pervasive in the neighborhood where she lived, Altgeld Gardens on the city’s South Side. She made sure to provide her three children with every opportunity she could, taking them to ballet lessons, after-school academic programs, plays and activities around the city, encouraging them to work hard at school and stay away from drugs. But the specter of violence and poverty was hard to escape.

Hard to escape, that is, until Harris got an opportunity to move out of the projects to a small village called Alsip, 40 minutes outside of Chicago’s city center and 80 percent white. Harris moved to Alsip 14 years ago and since then has led a quiet, suburban life alongside neighbors who go to work each day and raise their children to go to college.

Harris and her children thrived in Alsip. One of her daughters just graduated from college with a double bachelor’s degree in business administration and early childhood education, another is in a bachelor’s program for nursing and is a manager at a McDonald’s while she attends school. As for her friends who stayed in Altgeld Gardens, Harris told me, “their children have children. My children don’t.”

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