Peace First and After School Join Forces to Help Teens Change the World Through The Peace First Challenge

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--( September 21, 2016) - On the United Nations International Day of Peace, nonprofit organization Peace First and After School, the largest teen-only social network in the U.S., are launching a partnership to help millions of young people become peacemakers.

“Unfortunately, not enough young people are being called and prepared to be peacemakers. Even though we know that young people are disproportionately affected by violence, all too often they are not asked for their solutions, and rarely do we invest in their ideas. Instead, we continue to think of them as victims, perpetrators, or “the future” rather than powerful agents that can change the world for the better right now,” said Eric Dawson, Peace First Co-Founder and CEO. For twenty-four years, Peace First has prepared young people with the skills and commitments necessary to imagine and implement compassionate solutions to complex community problems. Its award-winning work reaches thousands of young people in all 50 states in the US and in 90 countries around the world.

After School will promote the Peace First Challenge, and share inspiring stories of youth peacemaking beginning on September 21. The Peace First Challenge is a “call to action for young people around the world to identify an injustice they care about and solve it using the tools of compassion, courage, and collaborative leadership, supported by a digital resource center, and mentors to power their ideas.” The challenge is open to youth between the ages of 13-24 years old and will invest through mini-grants to encourage projects and grow their impact. “Fortunately, there is an incredible opportunity through the Peace First Challenge to change this narrative by supporting young people around the world to unleash their moral imaginations and join a movement of peacemakers, starting here in the US,” Dawson stated.

After School has active online communities in over 80% of high schools and millions of users.  The app fosters fun and creative online and offline experiences for America’s teens, and helps connect them with opportunities to make a positive difference in their communities. The app provides these opportunities through active partnerships with leading youth-oriented organizations like Crisis Text Line, DoSomething.org, ConnectSafely, and Youth Service America, and now Peace First.

“Our teen users care about making their communities -- both online and offline -- a better place. We are delighted to work with Peace First to present young people with opportunities to tackle challenging social issues and make positive social change,” said After School’s Jeff Collins. After School’s efforts with partner DoSomething.org have resulted in over 50,000 students participating in social campaigns. The company is expanding partnership efforts to increase involvement in similar programs.

In response to why they’re partnering with After School, Dawson said, “After School has a wide audience of teens who have the ability to make positive change. We’re hopeful that our partnership, along with After School’s mission of activating their users in positive activities, will inspire youth to get involved with peacemaking efforts right now to help create a new cultural norm of peace.”

Peace First is a nonprofit (501(c)(3)) public benefit corporation that prepares young people around the world with the skills and commitments necessary to be powerful peacemakers

After School is a social network that fosters fun and creative online and offline experiences for America’s teens in a positive and safe environment that does not tolerate cyberbullying, threats, or content that threatens the safety of our online community. Millions of students in more than 80% of U.S. high schools, are using After School – making it the largest social network for teens.

A letter from Peace First CEO Eric Dawson: Something possible

Before something is seen as normal, it has to be seen as possible.
— Linda Greenhouse on Sandra Day O’Connor’s elevation to the Supreme Court

Dear Friends,

This was the quote that came to mind for me two weeks ago as we completed our latest Gathering, bringing together our young leaders to dream, plan, and collaborate on how to repair a world desperately in need of compassion. This event was a major milestone towards the culmination of the strategy that you’ve helped us create over the past year, and it was a moment when many of those ideas were turned into real possibilities.

In just a couple of months we’ll be taking our next big step forward by launching the Peace First Challenge. A call to action for young people around the world to identify an injustice and find compassionate solutions that break the cycles of violence, hatred, and intolerance that we suffer from. The Challenge will bring together much of our work from the past 20 years, but it also requires that we develop new tools and models for our work.

The recent Gathering was our first large scale test of many of these new elements, and I’m thrilled to say that the results were inspiring. Fifteen of the young peacemakers that we’ve worked with over the past few years came to the Gathering and were invited to be leaders in the community of peacemakers we’ll be building with the Challenge. Their response was amazing as they provided incredible feedback on our launch plans and stepped into their leadership roles with passion and a commitment to help build this community.

We also invited a group of young people from the Boston Area to test out many of the tools that we’ve been developing for the launch of the Challenge. Watching these young people take on complex injustices, work together to develop insights grounded in compassion, and then come up with solutions, made clear that we are on the right track, and their feedback will help shape the tools we deliver later this year.

Much work remains to be done, and this next year will be one of continuous learning for all of us as we launch the Challenge, but one thing is clear to me: an important brick of possibility has been laid on the path to a world where youth peacemaking is the norm. I look forward to continue walking that path together.

In Peace,

Eric

The Aspen Challenge

In March, Eric Dawson presented a challenge to the students of Chicago - he asked them to to bring together unlikely allies and unleash peace to counter the culture of violence that persists in all of our communities.

The team from the Roberto Clemente Community Academy accepted this challenge and designed an event called "Unify Division" in hopes to bring together both Wicker Park and Humboldt Park. The students felt that in the city of Chicago, there is animosity between neighborhoods that has created a divide in the city.  So in order to unify the city, the students are acting as agents of change by creating an event that utilizes these two unlikely allies to elicit peace and abolish the stereotypes that hinders these two neighborhoods from growing to their fullest potential.

Watch the students of the Roberto Clemente Community Academy present their project idea here:

School: Roberto Clemente Community Academy Challenge: By bringing together unlikely allies, I challenge you to unleash peace to counter the culture of violence present in your community.

Think Twice | Mary Pat Hector | TEDxYouth

Mary-Pat Hector (18) knows how to change the world. As a Peace First Prize Fellow, she was awarded the fellowship for Think Twice, a national campaign that educates youth on non-violence and other issues crippling her generation. Her national campaign provides teen-safety workshops for schools and trains teens and college students in youth advocacy.

Mary Pat asked a simple question of herself - 
“What was I going to do?”
Now it’s your turn to answer.

Designing Social Impact For Youth

We’re proud to be working with iiD to design a peacemaking platform that will empower and support young people to take action to solve the injustices important to them.

If we believe in the power of young people to change the world, how can our design work empower them to do so?

Read about iiD's approach to youth design here.

Don't Wait - Appreciate

Not sure how to start your peacemaking journey? This is an easy first step!

Check out more peacemaking tips here.

Peacemaking in Pop Culture: Superstore on NBC

Have you checked out NBC’s Superstore? If not, you are missing out on not only an incredibly funny show, but an important show.

Just take a look at the cast in that above picture - in there you see people of color, someone in a wheelchair, various generations of people - you see what life looks like. And the show does more than just have a diverse cast, it tells diverse stories of each of those people. It makes sure the viewer understands and appreciates what each person brings to the table, to the store. And it makes it all funny.

Then this week Superstore’s season finale aired and it stepped up it’s game.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The season ends with the employees of the fictional department store, Cloud 9, coming together and walking out on their employer. This comes after an episode of them beingtold they have value and respect by their employer but are never shown it.

This comes after one of the employees, who happens to still be in high school, gives birth in the middle of the store and quickly ask her boss if she could be a little late to her shift the next day…because the store’s policies do not allow for maternity leave. A reality far too many Americans face today.

This comes after the teenage girl’s boss works the store’s policy and finds a way for provide her maternity leave only to be fired by the higher ups at Cloud 9.

After this series of events the employees of the store, whom under most circumstances would probably not give each other a second glance, band together and stage a walk out. Tired of constant indignities and a system that ensures they cannot receive proper benefits, the people of Cloud 9 stood up. They saw, or felt, an injustice and decided they needed to take action, and they knew it needed to be done together, as a group. This was an act of peacemaking.

So check out Superstore. At the very least, go there for the laughs, because chances are you’ll stay for the stories.

UNITING ADVOCACY WORK AND A LAW DEGREE

I don’t think people always realize the social struggles you face because of other people’s misconceptions about you.
— Danielle Liebl, Peace First Fellow

Read how Danielle is going to school AND standing up for what’s right. Danielle is…what’s the word?…Amazing? Awesome? Badass? All of the above?