“Walking into the halls of Schenectady High School my ninth grade year I was part of a statistic. Schenectady High School students are perceived as fighters, ghetto, hoodlums, and affiliated with gangs. My ninth grade year I had gotten into a verbal altercation with another student and had gotten suspended. Coming back from my suspension I was put into this program called Power of Peace, at first I thought I was getting set up because I just gotten back from a suspension but little did I know my life would be changed forever. Once I finished the program I realized I wasn’t a statistic of Schenectady High School I was a person that let others drive my “car” rather than me to drive my own. What I mean by that is the student that I got into the altercation with was driving my car and controlling me I didn’t have to react and behave the way I did. The Power of Peace program saved me from not only others but from myself. Without that program I wouldn’t be graduating high school in June.” ~ Chyna, Student, Schenectady High School
One of the driving forces of creating this multi-media outlet, Black Westchester was to shine a bright light on organizations and individuals in our community who tirelessly contribute to the upliftment of our community, who you won’t usually have read or hear about in any of the mainstream media outlets.
When I came across Youth Voices Center and their Power Of Peace program, I knew this was an organization, I wanted to use our platform to shed some light on. We invited Philanthropist & Author Michael Arterberry to People Before Politics Radio to promote his book, God Was Holding My Hand (Michael Arterberry’s Story) by Rachel Arterberry and he spoke about his organization, Youth Voices Center and the work he had been doing with the Power of Peace program, I knew right then and there, he was who we created the BW Community Spotlight section to showcase.
Dedicated to serving at-risk youth, in 2014, 612 new Students went through the Power of Peace Program, and 3 new schools were added increasing the number of schools impacted to 8. From the 6 areas listed below, all six areas saw positive percentage change from pre- to post-survey. Specifically, “I am willing to talk to a student different from me,” saw the greatest increase at all schools of +32%. This result displays a central, consistent theme: compassion, community building, bonding and creating a nonjudgmental environment.
• I respect myself.
• I am willing to talk to a student different from me.
• I respect students different from me.
• I believe violence will not resolve conflict.
• I am aware of alternatives to violence.
• I think I know how other people see me.
As great as this much needed program is, they find themselves in danger not being able to continue to do the great work they have been doing for our youth. Unfortunately, Youth Voices Center (YVC) recently lost grant support it has relied on for the past 7 years, alongside a group of other charity recipients. Grant support made it possible to provide this valuable service to many schools free of charge. Now, to recoup lost funds, Youth Voices Center launched a GoFundMe campaign on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. If it cannot raise at least $30K, it will be forced to close its doors. We find ourselves saying things like the youth are out of control and there are not enough programs for the youth to get involved especially with things art and music classes being cut in many schools because of budget concerns.
When we find an organization like YVC, who dedicate themselves to serving the youth, especially at-risk youth, when they need help, we all need to pitch in so YVC and programs like it can continue to exist and save our youth, instead of complaining about them being out of control. I’ve said many times on PBP Radio, if the youth are out of control, it’s not because they have failed us, it’s because we are failing them. So I dedicate this month’s community spotlight to encouraging everyone reading this to check out the video below and lets not let YVC be another valuable resource lost another great program we talk about the great work they used to do and help them to be the great program who we saved so they could continue to do they great work.
“…I beg of you to please provide any monetary means that will help keep Power of Peace at our high school. Our school district has suffered from a lack of state funding and has had to cut back on student programs. We cannot afford to lose such a valuable program that has transformed the lives of so many of our students… More than 70 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch and we are in need of character education programs such as Power of Peace to help build our student’s self-esteem and self worth. I have chaperoned many of the workshops and have witnessed to the magic that occurs during the two day intensive program. This program has single handedly saved the lives of countless students as they felt comfortable and supported in sharing their most innermost thoughts and feelings. As a result of this program, our school is able to better identify and provide additional support services to our students.”
~ Juan Carlos Sanchez, Guidance Supervisor, Port Chester High School
ABOUT YOUTH VOICES CENTER: Established in 2008, Youth Voices Center, Inc. (YVC) is dedicated to promoting positive youth development among adolescents through its “Power of Peace” program offered in schools, community centers, and youth groups across Westchester, Schenectady, and Columbia counties, and soon to be Connecticut and New York City. The “Power of Peace” program is a conflict resolution and anti-violence initiative focused on developing leadership, teamwork, collaboration, decision-making, respect for others and self, and cultural awareness.
ABOUT POWER OF PEACE: YVC’s signature program, “Power of Peace,” is a succession of experiential workshops designed to enable young people to become skilled at conflict resolution so that their schools and communities are safer and they can realize their full potential as productive members of society. The program, led by YVC’s trained facilitators, including Michael, is provided to teens over the course of two full school days. On average, 25 students participate in each two-day cycle of the workshop. YVC staff work with the school guidance counselors to schedule as many workshop cycles as needed to reach the targeted number of students. Teachers and staff are encouraged to participate in the workshops as well so that they can share the experience with the students.
For more information on YVC check their website and click here to contribute to their GoFund
follow Youth Voices Center on Facebook
Also check out Michael Arterberry tell his story on People Before Politics Radio