Six nonprofit organizations, under the umbrella of Ripple Effect Milwaukee (REM), were awarded $750,000 by the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) for a three-year program to teach leadership skills and nonviolence to young people.
REM, set to launch in July, also will work with youth, ages 5 to 18, and families to develop social-emotional health and parenting skills.
Setting out to “spread peace and build community,” the six REM organizations are: Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, the lead agency; Marquette University Center for Peacemaking; St. Charles Youth and Family Services; Casa Romero Renewal Center; Milwaukee Public Theatre; and Vistelar Group.
“Violence is the death of imagination,” said Patrick Kennelly, associate director at the Center for Peacemaking. “When someone resorts to violence, they stop imagining being a part of a society.”
Brenda Barton, director of guidance and prevention services at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, and Kennelly will guide the direction of REM.
“The issues that will be addressed include the violence that youth face everyday,” Barton said. “This program will empower youth to take action in positive and creative ways as we will include theater, arts and spoken word as well as social networking and community-based projects.”
In its first year, REM has selected six Boys and Girls Clubs, and will grow the program with five additional sites for each of the next two years, targeting 16 Milwaukee communities overall. According to Kennelly, 320 youth will be served per year. Two of the pilot sites are in Lindsay Heights: North Division High School and Lavarnway Boys and Girls Clubs.
REM’s team, including two Boys and Girls Club staff members from each site, Kennelly and Center for Peacemaking staff members, will teach youth to be peer trainers. The team also will organize the program’s youth education sessions and parent education retreats. “There will be (teen) leadership councils all over the city, via the sites,” Kennelly said.
“REM was selected for the strength and diversity of their partnership, spanning across higher education, community grassroots organizations and youth service delivery,” said Staci Young, senior faculty director of the Violence Prevention Initiative. “The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee as the lead agency further solidified the partnership as one with a capacity to implement effective violence prevention programming,” she added.
VPI is funded until June 30, 2015, by the Medical College’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment.
According to Barton, reducing disruptive behavior, teaching conflict resolution to program participants and parents, and motivating youth are REM’s main objectives. “Youth will play a very active role in the direction this project takes,” she added.