WAUCONDA, Ill. (CBS) — On this Father’s Day, here is the story of a young man who has taken on the role of father for more than 20 boys from Chicago.
The boys have a new home and new schools. And as CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported Sunday night, Terrance Wallace’s hope is to give them a good life – now, and when they become adults.
For Lyndell and Dylan Luster – brothers whose early years were spent on Chicago’s South Side – home is now the affluent northwest suburbs.
“It’s awesome to be here,” Lyndell said. “You meet new people. It’s experiencing things you may have never experienced before.”
It is an experience the Lusters share with several other African-American boys from various city neighborhoods, all brought together by Wallace.
“We’re not an institution,” Wallace said. “We are a normal family, and if you ever spend time with us, you’ll see how much that is so real.”
Wallace is the founder the InZone Project. His aim is simple: offer these boys a safe and spacious environment with top-notch public schools.
He found it in Wauconda, and soon 25 more boys will move into the mansion in Barrington Hills where they live.
It’s a page from Wallace’s own life. His mother sent him to schools outside his West Side neighborhood.
“Looking back at my life, I think it was probably one of the best decisions my mom made for me, so I that could break some of the cycles I was seeing within our community, and also within our family,” Wallace said.
Wallace started the InZone Project a decade ago more than 8,000 miles away – in New Zealand, of all places.
Wallace, working in real estate in Chicago, said God told him to go to New Zealand. There, he opened a home for minority boys, who he said started doing much better in school.
“They just needed to be in an environment that supported and gave them the support them to achieve,” Wallace said. “One in 10 weeks jumped seven levels, which was the most in the history of the school.”
A documentary in New Zealand cited Wallace’s achievements. And afterward, Wallace felt he needed to return to Chicago to duplicate that success.
“I began to look at the pain and the situations that our kids here in Chicago were experiencing,” he said. “And I decided, you know what? I know that that hurts, but I have do this for the Black and Brown kids of Chicago.”
That’s how he ended up in the northwest suburbs. His early days there were spent trying to make sure his boys would be safe in a community with a tiny Black population.
“For this generation of young people — especially young males — it is a fight for their life, and I just hope that this community will embrace them,” Wallace said.
A meeting with the Barrington Hills police chief went well, Wallace said, but there were some difficult moments in the community.
“Prime example – I rented some kayaks to take the boys kayaking for the first time, and because I had so many kayaks on my truck, a neighbor got in a go-kart and came to see if I had taken the kayaks from where they are stored on the beach in a nearby location,” Wallace said. “And unfortunately, that’s our reality.”
Still, the Luster brothers are doing well in school, and say they feel welcomed.
“It’s a very great place to be, and you would want to be here,” Dylan said.
“Skin color, it doesn’t matter,” Lyndell added. “You can be Black, white, brown – people do the same thing.”
Though Wallace has legal guardianship all the boys he takes care of still have close ties to their families in the city. Co-parenting is what Wallace calls it.
And while they’re getting a good education, the boys have lessons to teach the community as well.
“There is a purpose for not only for them getting their education, but there is purpose for their social responsibility of bringing unity and equality,” Wallace said.
Wallace raises money through donations and crowdfunding. Right now, he’s saving some spots for boys who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19.
We will continue to follow InZone’s story.
For more information and if you’d like to help fund their mission, it’s at InZoneProject.org.