Peaceful Guardians Project with KCSD
The Peaceful Guardians Project in its pilot year with the Kingston City School District has taken off without a hitch, graduating two cohorts of students completing their 10-week programs at the Center for Creative Education since January. The program strives to bridge the 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 foster understanding, empathy, and trust, among all.
The first 8 weeks of each cohort were student-focused sessions where different themes were discussed every week, including topics such as love, community, fear, and anger. Students worked on things like mindfulness and self-reflection and enjoyed different physical activities including dance, drumming, and storytelling. Activities would change each week, but all kept a common thread in promoting ways to understand themselves and others, learning techniques to work through their emotions and channel emotionally charged energy. "I've learned to think with my brain and heart, to think before you speak, [and] don’t take things personally," said Kingston High School 10th Grader.
The last two weeks of the program are spent in joint sessions with officers from the Kingston Police Department where officers are engaged in the same activities as the students; everyone on the same level having an opportunity to work together. Sessions are similar to the first eight weeks in that they focus on a theme with discussions and workshops encouraging open communication and collaboration.
“Something I learned about the police is that they really love their job,” stated Joshua, a 7th-grade student at M.C. Miller Middle School. “They don’t like to take people away from their families.” “Police are really nice people," said Domanic, 8th Grader Miller.
“It’s a good place to start. To see intentional interactions that move us toward positive transformations, where students and officers are talking, laughing and having tough conversations that promote integrity and authenticity. Providing an opportunity to see one another as human.” said Program Coordinator, Vanessa Lawson (KHS Class of 2004). “There are so many stereotypes out there about young people and the police that we sometimes forget that we need to work at uncovering the truth. Being able to be a part of building and fostering a stronger community within the city that I grew up in, is priceless.”
In July, each student cohort will enter the second phase of the program getting matched with mentors from the local business community. Mentors will meet with their students monthly to check in on different aspects of their schooling like attendance and report cards. They will expose students to different career opportunities to start thinking about their futures beyond graduation. “The goal is to recruit as many students as possible and continue their mentorships throughout their high-school career. We will be collecting data to see how the program impacts grades, attendance, and suspensions,” said Lawson. “We want to support them in their success the best way that we can. We also want them to know they have a community that they can rely on.”
The third cohort is expected to begin sessions in September 2019. The Center for Creative Education will be recruiting students at the start of the 2019-2020 school year.