Since its inception in 1996, the Non-Violence Project of South Florida has engaged high-risk youth in positive alternatives that are designed to build safer, healthier communities. Mr. Donald Warshaw, Chief of Police, along with Mrs. Columba Bush, brought the Non-Violence Project to Miami from Sweden with the intention of making a difference and reducing violence among youth. The Miami Police Department serves as a central partner in the development of the Miami program, providing ongoing funding, information on communities in need, gang issues training, collaborations with police youth programs, and other resources.
The Non-Violence Project has a strong peer presentation program, Talk It Out! The field staff speak candidly about their own experiences and consequently build trust with their audiences. The staff talks about the ongoing health and social consequences of violence and recount stories about friends and acquaintances who have reached jail or death as direct results of violence. A central purpose of Talk It Out! is to motivate students to develop their own non-violence and skill-building initiatives within their schools and communities.
The Project also includes several programs that give youth alternatives to high-risk behavior and violent activities. The Ambassador Program acts as a catalyst for creative, positive youth action in schools and communities. Students receive training in conflict resolution and are guided to develop their own school initiatives. Upon completion of a six-week training, participants are rewarded with a field trip, a Non-Violence Project T-shirt, knotted-gun pin, and a certificate of completion. The Alternatives Program is a series of skill-building session designed to focus youth on art, sports, and technology. The Non-Violence Project has partnered with Bakehouse Art Complex, The Florida Dance Association, The Wallflower Gallery, among others, to provide opportunities for enrichment in the arts, which results in personal growth.
Studies show that the highest incidents of juvenile-related drug and crime activities happen during the weekday hours of 3pm and 7pm and on the weekends. Thus, the Project sponsors After School Academies, currently located at Town Park Plaza North in Overtown and New Haven Gardens in Liberty City, that have an open-door policy to those in need of a safe place to spend time during off-school hours. Project staff members lead high-energy, interactive workshops that complement the in-school efforts of the Project.
Other Project programs include “Parenting Academy,” in which tools are provided to assist parents in avoiding, moralizing, nagging, criticizing, or ridiculing to understand a child’s reason for misbehaving, and “Project L.O.V.E.” (Linking Opportunities to Volunteer Efforts), an ongoing community volunteer program that encourages young people to make a commitment to helping others through community service projects.
These programs represent only a portion of those operating under the Non-Violence Project umbrella. Future expansion of the Project includes an effort to utilize the Internet to develop services that support its mission electronically. For example, by establishing a neighborhood Web page that can integrate existing community youth development services to establish an electronic delivery system that is available to all residents.