Metropolitan Peace Academy, an initiative of Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, professionalizes the field of street outreach

VIDEO: Norman Kerr, City of Chicago’s Director of Violence Reduction, at a Metropolitan Peace Academy graduation

Where do you think it’s best to plant a young tree?

“Where do you think it’s best to plant a young tree: an open spot in a forest or in a wide-open field? Ecologists tell us that a young tree grows better when it’s planted in an area with older trees. The reason, it seems, is that the roots of the young tree are able to follow the pathways created by former trees and implant themselves more deeply.

Over time, the roots of many trees may actually graft themselves to one another, creating an intricate, interdependent foundation hidden under the ground. In this way, stronger trees share resources with weaker ones so that the whole forest becomes healthier.

That’s legacy: an interconnection across time, with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us.”

“It’s been nothing but an amazing opportunity for me to really grow, from not only just people that know the work, people that have been in the field but people that have really lived the lifestyle of what it means to make an impact on the lives of people.”

“I’ve heard so many different stories I’ve found myself carrying with me, but it’s helped me do better within my work and communicate better, and just respond better overall.”

“There’s no bridge to get to success, there’s no bridge to get to the other side, there’s no bridge to say, your life can be different. The outreach worker meets that participant at the beginning of that bridge, and we begin to build that bridge, brick by brick. … The Peace Academy is what gave me the bricks to build this bridge for the participants.”

“It taught me what hyperlocal meant, it taught me about restorative justice, it taught me about the pillars, how to be disciplined in my work, professional in my work, the dos and the don’ts.”

“It showed me on another level how to move around, how to do it right.”

“I told myself, I have to challenge myself and not drop out of something when I dropped out of everything, high school, I dropped out of things, and I’m like, no – I’m going to give myself a challenge and stay. So I stayed, and I’m glad I did, because I learned so much.”

“I want to go further, I want to be able to further my education in this as a facilitator and maybe even go onto college to be an instructor.”

“Every chance I get to bring something to the Peace Academy or this profession in general, I want to use what I’ve learned up until this date from the Peace Academy to give back or come up with something that will help us all become better human beings.”