I was surfing the web to try to find a new and interesting peace project to share with everyone. I came across an article on Words of Peace Global website. This website tells its audience about things that are going on the world, as well as events, webcasts, and television schedules on several continents.
The article that I found talked about a specific peace education program that came into the Dominguez State Prison in San Antonio, Texas. The major finding in the article was that for the inmates that attended the workshop, there was only a 1% that returned to the prison.
This program is based off of Prem Rawat’s message of peace. Rawat has is own foundation called The Prem Rawat Foundation or TPRF. His message is simple. “Peace needs to be in everyone’s life. The peace we are looking for is within. It is in the heart, waiting to be felt. It is not the world that needs peace; it is people. When people in the world are at peace within, the world will be at peace.”
For four years volunteers for the TPRF program have taught workshops at the Dominquez Prison. The Captain of the Prison, Captain Carter is the head of the Correctional Officers and Volunteer Services. He was quoted in an interview by saying, “The offenders who attend the program, their disciplinary record has gone down. They stay out of trouble. It has a positive impact on everyone who attends the class. It is one of my best classes because of the attendance rate and the turnout. Of the seven that I have, this is by far the best.”
I think it is important for inmates to learn the meaning of peace. The reason prisons are full of prisoners is because they have committed acts that are not viewed as peaceful. Giving the prisoners something to believe in and something to strive for is something that is so important in their rehabilitation. Most people do not realize the amount of rehabilitation that goes into the prisoner’s stay in prison. A lot of the inmates in prison will be released after they serve their time. Allowing them an opportunity to learn about peace, and how they can bring it into their life is important.
On the Words of Peace website there is an interview from the Captain, which I think is something worthwhile to watch.
There are many different organizations that promote leadership and peace education. However there are far more programs that are forgotten or under-utilized. This program falls under that category. I am promoting this program because I have seen how effective it can be and I think this program can become useful to schools around the country.
National Association of Teen Institutes or NATI, as its members know it, was established in 1965. This organization promotes supports and advocates for leadership and prevention programs. NATI is the umbrella, which all the teen institutes of the nation fall under.
All of the teen institutes work under a specific model that was developed by NATI. This model is taken from Icek Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior. There are five major elements that accompany the model.
- An All-Encompassing Focus on Healthy Beliefs and Clear Standards
- Opportunities for Pro-Social Bonding, Attachment and Commitment
- Meaningful Opportunities to Participate Actively
- Recognition and Reinforcement for Learning and Applying Life Skills
- Life Skills Training for Healthy Lifestyle Choice
I was pulled into this program after 4 years of service to my teen institute held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I became a Youth Affairs Liaison and was able to travel to several different cities to work with the teen institutes to try and improve and strengthen their programs. The program takes place over 3 to 7 days, depending on the program.
A program that has been very successful is the Tennessee Teen Institute. The overall goal of the Tennessee Teen Institute is to promote the development of a healthy, safe and drug-free lifestyle by impacting the attitudes and behaviors of our youth in the areas of alcohol, tobacco, drug abuse, and violence. TTI facilitates this by having young people develop Action Plans to implement prevention projects and programs in their schools and communities. TTI focuses on youth leadership skills and empowerment as key strategies to prevent underage alcohol and drug use.
There are many workshops that take place throughout the several days of instruction. Here are two of my favorite workshops presented to the participants.
- Jump the line-Participants stand on one side of the line and move to the other side when a statement is read that applies to them. The statements will get increasing more intimate towards the end of the exercise. The facilitator has to be able to read the room to see how the participants are handling the exercise because it can become an emotional experience.
- The participants are given 4 sets of 4 different colored pieces of paper. Each color represents something important to them. The four categories are, family members, favorite things, friends, and hobbies. The students then go through a process and have to choose between different colors and ripping them up. At the end of the exercise the student is left with only one piece of paper because of theoretical bad decisions that were made along the way.
I’ve found these programs to be exceptionally useful to school systems. The institutes teach the students that attend how to become leaders as well as drug and alcohol prevention. The facilitators give them to the tools and capacity to reach out the students of their schools to create a safer and more productive place. These websites offer helpful tips and creative ideas to bring to the classroom.