Leadership | Integrity | Service
Congrats to the Grads! DC Peace Academy Graduation #2
Dec. 2022: The DC Peace Academy marks the graduation of its second cohort of Peacemakers: experienced community violence intervention workers. The students attended 12 weeks of classes, taught by DC’s rich network of local experts, engaging in hands-on practical training including how to conduct mediations, ceasefires and truces, how to practice cognitive behavioral theory to heal trauma, how to resolve conflicts, how to hold a restorative justice circle, how to be a life coach, and so much more.
Hear what Cohort #2 students had to say about their experience
The classroom provided these Peacemakers, who are coming from different neighborhoods across the city and who work for 12 of the main community-based and hospital-based organizations who lead DC's violence intervention work, an opportunity to meet on a regular basis to get to know each other and build connections that will lead to greater collaborations and stronger outcomes. In addition, the Academy is a safe space where together these Peacemakers were able to process the intense trauma that they experience on a daily basis in their jobs.
Watch a slideshow with highlights from the classroom with Cohort #2
THANK YOU TO OUR GRADUATION SPEAKERS: Pastor Gholston of Peace Walks DC and Peace Fellowship Church who provided a very moving opening prayer; Letitia Newman our valedictorian; the Mayor of our great city: Mayor Muriel Bowser; actor, musician, and local icon: Anwan "Big G" Glover; and our amazing Peace For DC staff: Executive Director Lashonia Thompson-El, Director of Learning Nakeda Gilbert, and Operations Manager Nneka Grimes.
Congratulations to the Graduates!!!
Quotes from Graduation:
Pastor Gholston: “We look forward to being able to one day say there is no violence in this city. We look forward to be able to see our kids- my four year old daughter and my two year old- to be able to play at the playground and not have to worry about gunshots. We look forward to the day when we become the answers to our prayers. We become the solution that we have been waiting for. We look forward to that. Wow. When we look back over our lives, and we're able to say that we played a small part, but a part in answering our own prayers.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser: “The 24 new graduates here join a network of over 300 brave-hearted individuals who are committed to ending gun violence in our communities - Credible Messengers, Violence Interrupters, Roving Leaders, and Outreach Workers- who all work together to save lives."
Watch the full graduation including the Mayor's speech
Anwan “Big G” Glover: “As a true Washingtonian, I truly believe it takes a village to maintain order in our communities. I salute all that step up and don’t turn the other cheek when it comes to our neighborhoods.”
Watch Big G's post-graduation interview
Lashonia Thompson-El, Peace For DC Executive Director: “I am so grateful to the DC Peace Academy students for their willingness to trust one another and hold safe space for one another. This is not just a training, it is truly an experience. We are developing as directly impacted leaders and I am so very proud of us.”
Nakeda Gilbert, DC Peace Academy Director of Learning: “This Cohort is near and dear to my heart, not only because it was my first Cohort as the Director of Learning, but because of the persistence that you all showed from day one of instruction.”
Letitia Newman, DC Peace Academy Cohort #2 student and graduation valedictorian: "My time being a part of DC Peace Academy, Cohort 2, I was able to meet all of these beautiful young men and women in this class, from a wide range of neighborhoods all over the city....I want to tell all the many [teachers] how much we appreciate them for taking the time out of their regular schedules, to teach us a significant amount of skills to help us grow not only as people, mentors, co- workers, parents, violence interrupters and Peacemakers in our communities."
WHAT A NIGHT!
During the 2022 holiday season, DC Peace Academy students and alumni and their families were showered with love and holiday joy through the generosity of Washington Commanders' player Charles Leno Jr. and his wife Jennifer, and their nonprofit: Beyond The Entertainer, dedicated to showing the world that there is more to entertainers than what meets the eye. For the month of December, Beyond the Entertainer runs a campaign called Leno Claus where for 25 days, they partner with 20 organizations and five families/individuals to help spread awareness and bring holiday cheer into their lives.
Peace For DC is honored to be one of this year's recipients of Leno Claus! For this occasion, we invited all of the students and alumni of the DC Peace Academy to attend a Leno Claus holiday party with Charles and Jennifer, as well as Commanders teammate and lovely couple: Chase Roullier and his wife Sarah! At the event, students and alumni received special wellness/selfcare themed holiday gifts for themselves and toys for their children. They also got to enjoy some arcade games, dancing, music, and food. It was such a fun evening, and we are incredibly grateful to the Lenos for the gracious and openhearted way that they support DC Peacemakers and so many others in the DC area this holiday season.
Peace For DC is so grateful for the opportunity to be able to spread some love, holiday cheer, and much needed support towards the students of our DC Peace Academy, all individuals working in the violence intervention field. Almost all of them are raising children, many have had siblings or parents taken by gun violence, and many have at times experienced housing instability or other major life challenges. They are all are working to mediate conflicts and build peace in the most impacted communities in DC, working long hours and often putting themselves in harm's way. We want to honor these Peacemakers, make sure they know how much their brave work is valued, and make sure they have a chance during the holidays for time with their family and time for selfcare.
Thank you to Charles and Jennifer and Beyond the Entertainer for this incredible opportunity. The work you are doing is so heartening and so important! This support has made a huge impact on DC's violence intervention workers and Peace For DC.
We are also humbled because we know these actions are a heartfelt way to #HonorWithAction for loved ones that the Lenos have had taken by gun violence, for Charles' Commanders teammate Brian Robinson who was shot this fall, and for so many other victims and survivors of gun violence. We are determined to end gun violence in DC, and are proud to be in this fight with you.
Peace For DC wants you to meet Lorenzo Sanders, a Peacemaker in the Benning Park and Benning Terrace neighborhoods of Ward 7, and a graduate of the second cohort at the DC Peace Academy. Lorenzo was previously an Outreach Worker, and a Violence Interrupter before that, and now he serves as Site Supervisor. Born and raised in DC, and currently living not far from his work "target area", Lorenzo has been doing work with and give back to his community even before he officially became a Peacemaker. Lorenzo says, "I enjoy helping my people regardless of the role".
Lorenzo's advice to the next generation is to "be yourself" and "don't let your friends put peer pressure on you". That is sadly how a lot of violence unfolds, and Lorenzo works to break this cycle.
Lorenzo's target area has experienced meaningful progress in reduced homicides and shootings. We are so proud of Lorenzo and his colleagues for their hard work, and grateful for their commitment and bravery.
Check out this short video recapping DC Peace Academy's first graduation. Thank you to the talented Jacob Clark with Straight To The Point for filming and editing.
August 2022: Peace For DC is thrilled to celebrate our first class of DC Peace Academy graduates!
Last week we came together for the first ever DC Peace Academy (DCPA) graduation ceremony that included remarks by Mayor Muriel Bowser, as well as speeches and performances by DCPA students. Our first cohort of Peacemakers- experienced community violence intervention workers- attended 13 weeks of classes, taught by DC’s rich network of local experts, and engaged in hands-on practical training including how to conduct mediations, how to practice cognitive behavioral theory to heal trauma, how to resolve conflicts, how to hold restorative justice circles, how to be a life coach, and so much more. Many of the students found that the opportunity to connect with each other, hold space to heal together, and build collaborations with each other were some of the most impactful outcomes of their DCPA experience. Building these connections and relationships will allow DC‘s peacemakers to work smarter and achieve greater outcomes.
Thank you to our amazing DC Peace Academy co-founders- Alliance of Concerned Men, Blueprint Development, Collaborative Solutions for Communities, Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, Father Factor, J&J Monitoring, National Association for the Advancement of Returning Citizens, and Training Grounds- all community organizations engaged in the brave, difficult work of saving lives and building thriving, peaceful communities. Dr. Roger Mitchell, former DC Chief Medical Examiner, said at graduation: "The Peace Academy established outside of government, the Peace Academy established ‘for the people, by the people, to serve the people’, is the answer. And everybody can come alongside as we continue to work for the freedom of our people, the health and life and safety of our people.”
As stated by our Executive Director, Lashonia Thompson-El: “To achieve peace, it will require a deeper investment and a deeper commitment to our frontline workers. It is our responsibility to support our Violence Interrupters as they set out to do the work that they have been called to do.” Sincere thanks to all of our donors who make this invaluable work possible. Peace For DC is committed to building collaborations and partnerships in order to heal trauma, transform the lives of those at highest risk of violence, and enable DC’s Peacemakers to end gun violence in the District. No one said it better than Mayor Bowser herself: "It will take all of us….let’s lock arms and do that work together…we’re in this together.” Yes, together we will improve outcomes and save lives.
Help us build sustainable funding for the DC Peace Academy with a donation today.
Your contributions make a huge impact:
$300 = an honorarium for one student for two weeks
$10,000 = full tuition for one student
$13,000 = healing circles and 1-on-1 therapy sessions for one cohort
$26,000 = cognitive behavioral therapy training for one cohort
$250,000 = one ENTIRE cohort!
Peace For DC announces the launch of the DC Peace Academy, in collaboration with our amazing co-founders: Alliance of Concerned Men, Blueprint Development, Collaborative Solutions for Communities, Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, Father Factor, J&J Monitoring, National Association for the Advancement of Returning Citizens, and Training Grounds.
The DC Peace Academy launched on May 31, 2022 with its first cohort of 25 experienced community violence intervention workers. The Academy is focused on the personal and professional development of DC’s peacemakers, who serve as frontline workers working in the neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence using the public health approach to reduce shootings and homicides. The curriculum includes 13 weeks of training for frontline workers and is taught by local experts and practitioners. This evidence-based curriculum will supplement training provided by ONSE, OAG, and other government programs, in order to advance the skills and careers of our essential workers. The DC Peace Academy is funded by private donations through The Peace For DC Fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation.
With over 300 peacemakers working under government contracts across the city, these essential frontline workers deserve the investment to ensure continuous growth and development as they take on this very important work. In order to build safety and improve outcomes for individuals and neighborhoods, it is critical that these peacemakers receive the additional resources and training on personal and professional development that they need to save the most lives in the shortest amount of time.
For many peacemakers, this is their first job. This advanced training will allow them to excel in their careers. Moreover, they are carrying deep trauma with them from past and ongoing exposure to violence through this job, and they must have additional resources to process their own pain and stress. Peacemaker training programs that have been in existence for many years in other cities have been proven to help “heal the healers” and this program will follow best practices and be independently measured and continuously evaluated.
The DC Peace Academy will invest deeply in frontline workers in order to achieve even greater long-term client outcomes, and reduce shootings & homicides. By strengthening DC’s violence intervention workforce, we will enable greater collaboration among the community organizations doing this work, as they are the drivers of the city’s next phase of safety, peace, and wellness.
Addressing DC’s gun violence crisis and supporting grassroots frontline heroes with privately funded programs is core to Peace For DC’s mission. Creating safer neighborhoods opens the door to further addressing other systemic disparities.
We have a Police Academy. It’s time we have a Peace Academy. Peacemakers form the backbone of DC’s alternative system of public health and safety, and it is time to give them the resources they need to succeed in their careers and in their lives. These brave peacemakers will unleash the transformative potential of the community to create systems and strategies that improve outcomes and reduce violence.
We are going to give these brave frontline workers all the tools they need to be even more effective in their efforts to reduce shootings and homicide, heal trauma, and build thriving communities. From cognitive behavioral therapy to advanced negotiation and conflict resolution skills, we will provide the finest training in the country, free to every organization doing this vital work.
The effectiveness of DC’s public health approach to reducing violence is largely dependent on the investment we make in the individuals serving as our peacemakers. The co-founding organizations are experts in the field and deeply rooted community leaders. It’s time for a new approach that centers the leadership of the city’s violence intervention strategy with the community-based organizations doing the work.
Read more about the Peace Academy launch:
Wash. Post, DCist, WUSA9, NBC4, YouTube.