Global Peace Foundation (GPF) is piloting the Cross-Community Engagement program (CCE) in Jersey City, New Jersey. This is a prevention program that serves as a counter-measure to violence and extremism, with an emphasis on youth leadership development.
The following article is by Mike Yakawich, the Northwest Regional Director for Global Peace Foundation in the United States. Yakawich is the project coordinator for the pilot program Cross-Community Reconciliation in Montana.By Mike Yakawich
Thirty Latino and African-American middle school students demonstrated their conviction to make their community safer for all people across barriers of race, religion and socio-economic status following the completion of their participation in the
CCE engages at-risk youth from 5 ethnic groups: Latino, African American, Asian Indian, Caucasian and Arabs. Over the course of the next 12 months, these youth will participate in a series of workshops, field trips and activities designed to build cross-cultural relationships. Through a facilitated community mapping process, youth design and implement a community service or social enterprise project to address a need in their own community – putting their new leadership skills into practice. By the end of the program, youth will have resume-worthy training, community development expertise and real-life entrepreneurial experiences in implementing on a social enterprise.
The approach is based on 30 years of success in Belfast, Northern Ireland, working with Protestant and Catholic youth. Locally, GPF has engaged stakeholders including Co-operation Ireland, Federal Administration for Children and Families, NJ Attorney General's Office, NJ Department of Children and Families, Jersey City Police Department, and Board of Education and others, to invest 18 months into facilitated community mapping in order to tailor this program to a diverse, American urban setting. We have a robust network of high-level community stakeholders engaged and are continuing to expand the base of support and buy-in.
Through this pilot initiative, GPF intends to demonstrate a national model for replication and to measure the empirical impact on identity-based attitudes and behaviors. Rutgers University is our evaluation partner in this initiative.
The program has received initial seed funding and we are now ready to recruit youth and implement on program activities!