Peacemakers Academy will expand to all FWCS high schools

A recent voter referendum calling for more safety measures in Fort Wayne Community Schools will expand the work of St. Joe Foundation grantee Alive Community Outreach.

The Foundation provided the fledgling ministry one of its first grants in 2022 and provided further support this spring. “The Catholic Social Tradition of solidarity calls for us all to pursue peace,” says Meg Distler, executive director of the Foundation. “Our Board of Directors was moved by the beautiful ways Alive Community Outreach seeks to promote peace in our local community.”

Alive Community Outreach is a local faith-based organization focused on supporting families affected by homicide as well as on providing nonviolence education to area high school students. The primary initiative of the education program is the Peacemaker Academy, a nonviolence leadership development program for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors at South Side High School. With support from FWCS, the Peacemaker Academy will now expand to all other district high schools.

Learn more in the following questions and answers with Alive Community Outreach Founder and Executive Director Angelo Mante.

  1. What does the approval of the safety referendum for Fort Wayne Community Schools mean for Alive Community Outreach? The referendum’s approval marks a transformative chapter for Alive Community Outreach. It allows us to expand our Peacemakers program across the district, broadening our impact from South Side High School to encompass all high schools and eventually middle schools. This expansion not only reinforces the effectiveness of our approach but positions us at the forefront of creating a district-wide, and potentially national, model for nonviolence education.
  2. What successes have you seen with the Peacemaker Academy at South Side High School? The Peacemaker Academy at South Side has been a beacon of change. In just the first quarter, we’ve seen a 31 percent reduction in fights, an 89 percent drop in tardies, and a general decrease in disciplinary incidents. Beyond these statistics, there’s a tangible shift in the school’s culture, hard to quantify but deeply felt. Our 39 Peacemaker graduates have catalyzed a movement that’s now expanding district-wide, inspiring other schools to learn from our model.
  3. Why does our community need peacemaking? With the rise in youth violence, as reported by WANE TV, and global and national tensions, the need for peacemaking has never been more pressing. Peacemaking fosters a safe, supportive environment and tackles the root causes of conflict. It’s not just about reducing violence; it’s about building a community where respect, understanding, and justice are the foundations of interaction.
  4. What is Kingian Nonviolence and how does it help communities become safer? Kingian Nonviolence, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is more than a strategy to stop violence; it’s a pathway to justice. It provides a framework for understanding violence at its root, crafting solutions, and equipping individuals with the skills to enact lasting change. By promoting positive peace, rooted in justice, Kingian Nonviolence transforms communities into safer, more equitable spaces.
  5. What do you need from community members to help you in your work promoting peace? We are gearing up to recruit volunteers, including ‘Peace Grannies and Grampies,’ for each high school as part of our expansion. These volunteers are vital in engaging with students and meeting diverse needs at each school. We also aim to expand our monthly donor base to build a sustainable financial foundation as we rapidly grow. Community support in these areas is crucial for our continued success and expansion.
  6. What does the support of the St. Joe Foundation, and other funders, mean to Alive Community Outreach? The backing of the St. Joe Foundation and other early supporters has been fundamental to our progress. As a young organization, this support was a leap of faith in our vision, allowing us to build from the ground up. It has been both rewarding and challenging, and the Foundation’s belief in us has been instrumental in our achievements. We hope that they, along with all our supporters, feel a sense of pride in what their investment has accomplished and the exciting potential it holds for the future.