The ONS Life Skills for Peace (LS4P) program serves youth between the ages of 16-24 most at-risk for being involved with or directly impacted by gun violence in the City of Richmond. LS4P also works with students facing suspensions for violence, youth on probation for violence and youth detained, but not arrested by local law enforcement.
LS4P provides a peer facilitated (in that the facilitators have similar life experiences, rather than being the same age) transformative group mentoring formatted activity designed to create an environment that teaches and provides opportunities for pro-social behavior through positive peer role modeling, healthy problem solving, conflict resolution, anger management, character development, and life skills training with the intent of fostering resilience to the risk factors associated with violence. The research on best practices to prevent youth violence demonstrates that one effective approach involves guiding young people to enhance the protective factors they need to overcome the risk factors associated with violence to build their resilience. These protective factors include: peer groups, schools, and communities that emphasize positive social norms; warm supportive relationships and bonding with adults, opportunities to become involved in positive activities; recognition and support for participating in positive activities; cognitive, social, and emotional competence. ONS LS4P provides this while inspiring its youth to look beyond their problems to their possibilities, beyond their challenges to their potential.
The curriculum is designed to help program participants to discover & expand their critical thinking skills, uncover his/her own dreams and aspirations, and recover & identify those ideas, issues, conflicts, obstacles, and challenges which may hinder them in achieving their dreams. Four foci are utilized to create an environment for transformative learning, which include ‘Why we act the way we act”, “who are we really, the developmental process of life” (manhood/womanhood, responsibility and perseverance), and history, social, cultural insights and perspectives that inspire personal achievement, character strengthening and community building.