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American Paradigm Schools Expands Partnership with Alternatives to Violence Project

09/05/2013 | 01:12pm US/Eastern

Organizations partner to empower students to be grounded, confident leaders of peace in their communities

Today, American Paradigm Schools has announced the continuation and expansion of their partnership with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), an association of community based groups that offer experiential workshops in personal growth and creative conflict management.

The Alternatives to Violence Project previously worked with American Paradigm Schools in the opening of their newest school, Memphis Street Academy. Memphis Street, formerly known as John Paul Jones Middle School, stood as a Kensington middle school plagued by violence and identified by the School District of Philadelphia as a Renaissance School. The goal was to employ AVP's workshops to aid the entire staff in developing the skills and awareness needed to successfully work with students traumatized by violence. Having cited 138 reported incidences of school violence from September 2011 through February 2012 at the former John Paul Jones Middle School, it was abundantly clear to American Paradigm school administrators that changes needed to be made for a peaceful and productive learning environment to prevail.

"A fundamental goal of American Paradigm Schools is to develop positive blueprints for neighborhoods where excellent educational choices are absent," said Stacey Cruise, Chief Executive Officer of American Paradigm Schools. "When the School District of Philadelphia called for a turnaround of John Paul Jones Middle School, we saw an opportunity to completely revolutionize the learning experience for the students in this deeply troubled Philadelphia neighborhood. Ultimately, we aspired to change the lives of our students for the better, which led us to join forces with the Alternatives to Violence Project."

The Alternatives to Violence Project was founded to address violence in prison communities by introducing innovative ways to resolve conflict while reducing the need to resort to violence as a solution. In early September 2012, AVP began its first experiential workshop with Memphis Street Academy and the Philadelphia chapter's first venture into the middle school community. Designed to feature improvisational exercises, the workshops taught Memphis Street administrators, educators and support staff how to decrease the number of violent incidents within their school community and instead increase the opportunities for peaceful resolutions to take place. Ultimately, the workshops led to extensive team building for the Memphis Street Academy employees that enabled greater commitment to the overall mission and partnership of the two organizations. In addition, the collaboration blossomed into much more than anticipated as teachers, counselors and administrators sought to learn more, become workshop facilitators and bring the strategies they were learning to school families and the greater Memphis Street community.

"The entire staff came in for a three day workshop prior to the beginning of the school year," said Carolyn Schodt, Alternatives to Violence Project Community Coordinator for Greater Philadelphia. "Our primary goal was to create a community for the staff, faculty and administration of Memphis Street established upon trust. Our approach was to empower the adults and shape them into an authentic community and ultimately instill a caring school community - a focus of American Paradigm's. In our workshops, participants learned skills like listening, observation, communication, co-operating and the means of transforming relationships amidst conflict--all to support them in creating respectful communities within their classrooms."

Faculty, staff and engagement coaches at Memphis Street requested further training from AVP after seeing the tangible benefits and skill set the program personally provided for them and their students. A series of six advanced-level sessions were held every six weeks, on Saturdays, for interested faculty and administrators in accordance with AVP's volunteers only principle.

"Our partnership with AVP has been one of the most exciting and beneficial relationships we have established in our 12 years of promoting educational excellence," said Cruise. "In the last year, the total number of violent incidents has dropped tremendously. Previously, police were called to arrest students several times per day. This year, there was an average of one violent incident per month and several months without a single reportable incident. The experience at Memphis Street has allowed us to visualize a way to duplicate this partnership in each of American Paradigm's schools and because of the interest and participation by our staff at Memphis Street, we knew it would be a wise decision to expand our work to First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School and Tacony Academy's High School," continued Cruise.

Training for Facilitators Workshops were conducted throughout August and continue through early September at Tacony Academy High School and First Philadelphia's Preparatory Charter School with nearly 500 students walking through the program. Leadership at the workshops will include faculty from Arcadia University and St. Joseph's University, Lizzie Rodriguez, a leader in the Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) who will be working in Rwanda, and Nadine Hoover, who has brought AVP to post-war communities in Indonesia in coordination with the Friends Peace Teams. In addition, Cambridge, Massachusetts City Councilman, Craig Kelley, will be in attendance in an effort to bring similar programs to Cambridge. "I think we all need to learn better communication skills regardless of where we are in life," Kelley said. "I am fascinated by the concept of training a school cohort, to include students, and am interested in what lessons this training might have for Cambridge," he continued.

Further workshops will be made available for interested family members in an effort to better the overall community. For more information, please visit www.avpusa.org.

About American Paradigm Schools:

Founded in Philadelphia, American Paradigm Schools is a national nonprofit educational management organization that exits to foster educational excellence for students, to produce equitable results that reduce persistent patterns of inequity and to create culturally proficient yet caring learning communities nationwide. For more information, visit www.ap-schools.com.

About Alternatives to Violence Project, Inc.

Alternatives to Violence Project, Inc. (AVP) is a nonprofit organization of volunteers offering experiential workshops to help people deal with conflicts creatively and nonviolently. AVP facilitators come from all walks of life, including prison inmates, who believe that nonviolent solutions are possible when conflict is approached with a caring attitude towards others and self-respect. See AVPUSA.org for more information.

American Paradigm Contact:
Jim Stanton
Director of Communications
& Community Relations
Media Contact:
Gregory FCA
Katie Kennedy
Associate Vice President

© Business Wire 2013
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