As reported on, written by Bobby Tanzilo

Driving along Walnut Street or Fond du Lac Avenue, you can’t really miss the Running Rebels headquarters at 1300 W. Fond du Lac Ave., a triangular building that’s held sway over its intersection for more than a century.

The youth guidance community organization has been located at the site since the late 1990s but during its long history, the building has also served the community in a number of ways before, and it has an interesting story.

But what’s happening in the building – which is also home to Express Yourself, which does art education, art therapy, music and other programming with kids – right now is some of the most important work that’s ever taken place there.

Running Rebels was founded in 1980 by Victor Barnett, says John L. Rakowski, Running Rebels’ director of prevention programs.

“We’ve been mentoring youth throughout Milwaukee since 1980,” he says. “The program really took on life beyond the one-on-one work Victor was doing in the ’80s and early ’90s when in the mid-’90s, he got some contracts to work with adjudicated youth.

“Basically, someone was paying attention and said, ‘You really seem to strike a chord and have some good influence on some of the young people who are a little bit harder to reach, and some of those guys are sitting on paper. Do you think you might be willing to do some work with them?’

Rakowski says that Running Rebels works with about 1,500 kids each year and a big part of mentorship and service is in creating relationships.

“Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to build off that model and just building relationships with young people, meeting them where they are, allowing them to make mistakes, work with them off hours, I think is a big thing,” says Rakowski.

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