A group of South Side High School students will be part of the new Peacemaker Academy that applies the nonviolence philosophy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Rev. Angelo Mante, executive director of Alive Community Outreach, described the concept at Rotary Club of Fort Wayne’s June 7 meeting at Parkview Field.
The three-week summer program will be held June 28-July 16 at the City Life Center across the street from the high school. The goal is to choose students who are already exhibiting leadership qualities and to teach them nonviolence conflict resolution and look at the roots of violence issues such as bullying in the school. The program will culminate in a project the final week. Each of up to 15 of the initial academy’s participants will receive $750 after completing all three weeks, Mante said. The fourth phase will be a project implementation, which can be something ongoing or a one-time event.
While the program is beginning with South Side students because of the concentration of violence on the south side of Fort Wayne, Mante hopes to take the program to other high schools.
Mante, a Fort Wayne native, knows the hurt that violence can have on a family. His cousin was shot and killed in Fort Wayne in 2016.
“That tragedy was the catalyst for the call for our family” to move back to Fort Wayne from Atlanta, where they had been for about nine years.
Mante said they got to know community leaders and families affected by violence.
“We knew from the get-go that supporting families, and especially children, who’ve been affected by violence, that was going to be an essential part,” Mante said.
They took children who had lost parents, siblings and friends to Erin’s House for Grieving Children and helped with financial assistance to families, something that Mante said continues, and for which the group is looking for a caseworker for the summer.
As they did this, “The more urgent this question became, ‘How can we break this cycle?’” Mante said.
Mante said he has a passion for nonviolence work and he went through or nonviolence training in Selma, Alabama, with Bernard Lafayette Jr., a leader in the Civil Rights Movement who visited with King hours before the latter was shot to death.
Mante became intrigued by the nonviolence training called Peace Warriors at North Lawndale College Prep in Chicago, which reduced violence in the school by 90%, Mante said. The school would celebrate each nonviolence milestone with a bigger celebration as the time went on from 30 days to 60, to 90, and finally, at 150 days they held a block party and invited parents to become a part.
Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Mark Daniel, a member of the Rotary club, gave his overwhelming support for the academy. “I’m endorsing it 100%,” he said.