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“Peace Warriors” courageously become violence interrupters in their schools

By Shardaa Gray

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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — There’s a push to protect Chicago Public School students from gun violence in their neighborhoods.

They had the opportunity to take part in a special training on Monday.

They’re becoming Peace Warriors in response to three recent shootings police are investigating, targeting, or involving Chicago high schoolers.

Some North Lawndale College Prep students are stepping up to inspire change. The goal is to prevent violence before it happens inside the school.

“Resources come with opportunities.”

In the wake of recent shootings outside of Chicago high schools, the students are bringing peace inside North Lawndale College Prep.

“We are ambassadors of peace. We interject love and kindness,” White said.

The nationally recognized student-led group called Peace Warriors hosted a one-day nonviolence training session.

“The six principles of nonviolence. Ways to change their anger. Like, instead of being angry all the time, they can change their anger into a positive way,” said junior Leonard Williams.

Organizers said this is just the start.

They want the training sessions to go beyond the classroom and into the community.

Students who are part of the program, like senior Nakiya White, are grooming the next batch of students.

“I want to show my little brothers that they don’t always have to react to violence in a negative way,” White said.

They serve as “violence interrupters” and they proactively mediate conflicts inside the school.

“I trained somebody over the summer. He was slowly getting into gang stuff, but after we did a week or two with him, he changed his life around,” White said.

Senior Ahlana Blassingame said some days aren’t easy.

“It’s hard. We have setbacks with ourselves, but also with the school, and the building, and the environment. You don’t always get good results the first time, but as time goes on, you build relationships and people start to respect you,” Blassingame said.

The group was founded in 2009. Peace Warrior manager Gerald Smith said they’re committed to fostering peace within their school and community.

He said when tragedy impacts one of the students, a simple note and a candy bag make a big difference.

“With dignity and discretion, they say, ‘Hey we heard about your loss. And we’re here to support you.’ What that says to a student is you see me and you know what I’m going through. What that has done, with the amount of fights, have literally driven down the number of fights.”

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