Peaceful Guardians Project
The Peaceful Guardians Project, launching on Saturday, January 12, 2019, is a fresh initiative that will link KCSD middle-school students with the Kingston Police Department police force. This may initially seem like an odd demographic pairing, but that is the point. The program strives to bridge the growing gap between local youth and law enforcement; it is designed with a mission to put each group in direct contact with one another in a mutually supportive learning environment where activities will foster greater understanding, empathy, and trust, among all.
The PGP started getting “buzz” back in September, but the vision for the project emerged well before the 2018-2019 school year kicked off. The idea first arose among leaders at the Center for Creative Education, the City of Kingston and Kingston Police Department, and the Kingston City School District, sharing the belief that the stereotypes and misunderstandings that exist between police officers and our community’s youth can change. "Our youth and our police officers are vital members of the Kingston community," said Lester Strong, Founder and Director of the Peaceful Guardians Project. "Our goal is to dissolve common concerns and misunderstandings so that both sides can feel respected and protected."
The first student cohort beginning January 12th will go through eight weeks of training sessions at the Center for Creative Education while KPD officers are simultaneously training at SUNY Ulster in Kingston. Student sessions will be geared toward values, emotional support and academic support, while officer sessions will focus on health, wellness, and overall quality of life. Each training will incorporate mindfulness through a menu of activities ranging from storytelling and discussions to dancing, yoga, and meditation. Topics such as love, purpose, fear, and problem solving, are specifically selected and highlighted each week to provoke thoughts and conversations among participants.
Students and officers will then join each other for the last few weeks of trainings with group activities that encourage collaboration and promote fellowship and unity. “The Peaceful Guardians Project further enhances our abilities to serve the public by combining health and wellness training with a focus on community interaction,” said Kingston Chief of Police, Egidio Tinti. “It allows officers to get a better understanding of the need for healthy living with an emphasis on building public trust.”
Once students complete the initial 10 weeks of the program they will be matched with a PGP mentor to continue down their peaceful path. Mentors are drawn from the local business community and will meet with their mentees monthly, checking in on school work and report cards while also exposing students to potential career opportunities. Many organization leaders have already signed on as mentors and expect to meet their first group of students by the end of March. The goal is to keep mentors with students through high school.
This program is packed with goals, some that will be measured and reported on over the course of the project. Until results can be officially tabulated, we will stand by and watch our Peaceful Guardians develop.