This Summer POPP will launch new Peace Initiatives with Cobb County Juvenile Courts and Cobb County Jail. The program is built to interrupt and redirect young people who are getting involved in gang life and to decrease violence in the County Jail stemming from gang activity. This pilot program was born through our partnership with Judge Wayne Grannis and Deputy Chief Milton Beck. With youth crime and violence on the rise, we have to start thinking outside of the box and be willing to try new ideas and bold initiatives. Public servants and community leaders are beginning to realize that we cannot arrest our way out of this growing epidemic or legislate our way out of it either. We must roll up our sleeves, get to work, and be willing to get our hands dirty—our kids need us now. We are so grateful for our partnership with Cobb County government, as well as Rotary, Kiwanis, and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. If these programs are as effective as we expect them to be, then we will have a model that we can roll out to other communities around Atlanta and beyond. Peace is on the move!
POPP’s Community Peace Initiative is moving in this beautiful, historic civil rights city in the South. Unfortunately, youth crime and violence are on the rise, and street gangs are claiming the kids. Last Fall POPP arrived in Selma, having been invited by a group of concerned business leaders, pastors, and elected officials. Since then, Kit has been going over to Selma twice a month and laying the groundwork for our Peace Initiative there. Great inroads have been made as Kit has developed relationships with the business community, faith community, government leaders, law enforcement, and educators.
Here is what we have found across the nation: In every community there are three vital institutions: schools, jails, and churches. Unfortunately, in many communities, these three institutions have become somewhat dysfunctional. Schools have become a pipeline to the jails. Jails have become a repeat customer business, and churches are often sitting on the sidelines. That’s why POPP has developed three programs to bring communities together and heal them from the inside out: Forty Days to Freedom for the jails; Forty Days of Power for the schools; and Forty Days of Prayer for the churches. Working hand in hand, forty days at a time, community leaders create momentum toward peace, compassion, and unity among these vital institutional components. We have seen measurable success using this model in prisons, and then pulling in schools and churches to support the work. Now we are bringing all those elements together and tackling the issues that are dividing these beautiful but wounded communities across the country.
Selma has suffered for the Struggle in this divided nation of ours. They are remembered every time there is a significant MLK holiday, only to be forgotten once again. Outsiders get their photo on the famous Edmund Pettis Bridge, the site of Bloody Sunday, and then they leave and things return to normal for the residents of this iconic city; POPP aims to change that. Selma feels used and abused; POPP aims to correct that. They are not forgotten anymore, and God willing, they will become a light to the nation, as Dr. King intended. The Dream Lives, and the March Continues. Let Peace Reign in Selma!
This month POPP kicked off our third annual “Character and Leadership Development” competition with six competing football teams in Cobb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties. Each coach selected sixteen team leaders and we meet once a week for eight weeks, as they go through their Summer practices and workouts. The campaign culminates with a community event where all the players and coaches, as well as families and community leaders, will come together to reward and celebrate these young men who are striving to become positive role models and use their influence for peace in their classrooms, hallways, and communities.
Every day the players read quotes from iconic world changing athletes, and every week they meet with their POPP Squads and Power Partners to hold one another accountable, and work to complete the daily Action Challenges together. In the second half of the Protect the Dream campaign they will create a three-minute video on one of the “Seven Dream Killers” that they want to tackle at their school (bullying, irresponsible social media, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.) These videos will be featured at our POPP Graduation Celebration on August 11th at NorthStar Church, where all the teams will be competing for our “Dream Team” award given to the team who makes the most positive community impact. The players are also competing against one another for our biggest prize: The Mason Legacy Award for the outstanding character athlete. These videos will be circulated throughout the student body to show that there is a new standard that the student-athletes are striving to live up to and model for the young ones coming up after them.
This Summer we are also bringing on teams from Selma, AL and Benton Harbor, MI. If we are going to turn the dangerous tide of violence, self-harm, and risky behavior toward peace, compassion, and acceptance in our schools, it must start with the students who are already leading the way. Together, they can begin to shift school culture and change “what cool looks like” on their campus.
The Power of Peace Project works redirecting at-risk youth by inspiring young people to discover and develop their untapped power and potential. Standout student leaders are chosen, both positive and negative, to participate in an eight-week character and leadership development program. The program culminates with a community event where graduates are celebrated and awarded, and standout students are featured. For more information visit the website at www.powerofpeaceproject.com.