In 2004, following the shocking and senseless murder of a local high school student, the Richmond Peace Education Center and the community percussion group Drums No Guns helped a group of Richmond teenagers create the Richmond Youth Peace Project (RYPP). RYPP’s primary goal is to encourage young people to learn and apply techniques of nonviolent conflict resolution to help reduce the level of youth violence in central Virginia. Additionally we promote youth leadership by involving teens throughout the planning and presentation of RYPP events, and encourage young people to express themselves positively through the arts.
Through their participation, young people…
- learn effective nonviolent conflict resolution skills that improve their ability to resolve disputes peacefully.
- develop leadership and organizing skills, by leading workshops with other youth, and by planning, promoting, and presenting events in partnership with adult program staff.
- Express their views about the causes of and solutions to community violence through performing, written and visual arts.
Our program has four main components:
A Teen Conflict Resolution Team RYPP trains teenagers to lead other young people to resolve conflicts in ways that prevent disagreements from escalating into violence. Since 2006, we have trained about 200 teenagers in conflict resolution techniques. More than fifty of these teen facilitators–with adult mentorship and supervision—have gone on to plan and conduct workshops with other Richmond-area youth, age 6 and older. These engaging, participatory workshops teach effective communication tools, anger management techniques, and conflict problem-solving skills. Our teen facilitators have provided more than 200 hours of after school and summer workshops to well over 1000 other youth in Central Virginia, in community centers, youth programs, religious congregations, and public and private schools.
An annual Youth Peace Summit Since 2005, our RYPP Training Team and other teenagers help organize and lead an annual day-long Youth Peace Summit each spring. This educational conference for young people features workshops on conflict resolution, violence prevention, youth empowerment, and positive, creative self-expression. The summit is free to teenagers from throughout metropolitan Richmond. Most workshops are either led or co-led by the youth themselves. About 150 youth attended our most recent Summit.
The annual Generation Dream Educoncert Each winter RYPP presents Generation Dream, a variety show-style “Educoncert”, honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This high-quality theatrical production offers young people the opportunity to address issues of concern to them, and express hope for a better and more just and peaceful future. Generation Dream performances feature about twenty youth musical groups, dance performers, and local spoken-word artists. Our two 2013 two performances drew almost 500 audience members.
Other Activities and Programs
In addition, RYPP sponsors or co-sponsors other activities, including regular monthly meetings, and special events such as the No One Is Bulletproof: Teens Talk about Gun Violence program held in both 2010 and 2012. RYPP participants often serve as volunteers for other Richmond Peace Education Center events. All RYPP teens are eligible to earn community service hours for their work with the program.
RYPP participants are a racially and economically diverse group. They come from both the city and surrounding counties, and across a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. We believe this is important to building a dynamic and representative team of young people. It also provides opportunity for youth from different backgrounds, who would not otherwise interact, to forge friendships and learn from one another.
We are proud that the Richmond Youth Peace Project was the recipient of the 2006 Virginia Educational Association Fitz Turner Award, which honors an individual or organization for exceptional leadership and contributions that have enhanced the respect for human and civil rights in Virginia. The program was also featured in a fall 2007 issue of the scholarly journal Harvard Educational Review.
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