The Community Safety Leadership Academies is an initiative of Crime Lab.

Vice President Kamala Harris recognized the work of the University of Chicago Crime Lab’s Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy (CVILA) at an event that acknowledged the accomplishments of its inaugural cohort at the White House. The graduates – who include CVI leaders from 21 cities across America – can now draw on this world-class, six-month education they received to improve their organizations and support their mission to prevent and reduce gun violence and save lives in communities of color disproportionately harmed by the direct and indirect consequences of gun violence.

The newly created White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention (OGVP) hosted the ceremony at an event marking the conclusion of a week of awareness hosted by OGVP focused on community violence awareness and prevention. Maryland Governor Wes Moore and Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, also provided remarks at the event.

“The brilliance of this inaugural class and its leaders is the ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been, and then to make it real in a way that will be replicated around our country,” said Vice President Harris. “I congratulate everyone here and the graduates for all you have put into this and all you do for your communities.”

The recognition of CVILA’s inaugural cohort was the culmination of a week of events hosted by OGVP focused on community violence awareness and prevention and builds on the President’s Safer America Plan, which set forth an agenda to invest in public safety strategies like mental health services; victim services; and afterschool, educational, and employment programs for youth. Community violence intervention (CVI) programs are an effective approach to preventing gun violence, with some behavioral science-informed CVI programs proven to reduce violence by close to 50%. The Biden-Harris Administration has stated that CVI is one of the best practices to follow through on the President’s promise of making Americans safer, and CVILA, in particular, can serve as a model for other initiatives related to community violence reduction.

“Gun violence affects every part of society, and it will take every part of society to come up with solutions. That’s why Maryland will be the first state to answer President Biden’s call to launch a statewide Center for Firearm Violence Prevention and Intervention,” said Governor Wes Moore. “Every time you make sure that we address the gun violence crisis not just from the angle of public safety—but also from the angle of public health—the work these graduates are doing will saves lives. Maryland is going to work with the Biden-Harris Administration and every single person in this room to get this moment right. Together, we will build a better future for our children, our families, and our country.”

To address America’s critical public safety challenges, the urgent day-to-day work of saving lives falls primarily to two sectors, community violence intervention organizations and police departments, that have historically lacked investment in human capital that has transformed other sectors. The CVI sector, in particular, is facing a resource shortfall, limiting its capacity to develop leadership skills. The Biden-Harris Administration is focused on creating a pipeline of leaders to address this challenge, which is why the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention was proud to celebrate the Crime Lab’s establishment of the Community Safety Leadership Academies, an initiative focused on bringing the leadership and management practices of CVI and policing into the 21st century. These academies include the Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy and the Policing Leadership Academy.

“Today, we celebrate a milestone at the University of Chicago with the graduation of the first cohort from this Academy,” stated University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos. “We stand as the nation’s first university to spearhead such an initiative, directly translating our research into action to combat community violence nationwide. Our graduates are living proof that academic rigor and community leadership can converge to forge significant, life-saving change. This program is a proud example of our commitment to creating safer communities through scholarly excellence and practical application.”

The CVILA is the only management and leadership program in the country designed to help the next generation of CVI leaders strengthen their programs and scale their impact. As new federal funding from the Bipartisan Safer Community Act reaches communities, the CVILA offers emerging leaders hands-on training on staff management and retention, data use, violence prevention and reduction, and community engagement – ensuring CVI programs turn new funding into on-the-ground impact. As part of the program, CVILA students participated in immersive learning labs in Chicago, New York, and Oakland that integrated their classroom experiences with community-based experiences.

“We celebrate the increased support for CVI from officials at all government levels, with a special thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration,” said CVILA Executive Director Dr. Chico Tillmon. “Today’s White House graduation, hosted by the new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, highlights the critical need to address the persistent safety gap in our country and enhance public safety in Black and Brown communities across the nation. Thanks to CVILA’s leadership education, our graduates are primed to implement sustainable CVI solutions, paving the way for healthy, thriving communities.”

A team of key community violence intervention leaders from across the country serve on the CVILA Steering Committee. Along with the Black and Brown Peace Consortium, these leaders helped craft a curriculum and aided in the academy’s development to provide participants with transferable skills that they can leverage to support other organizations and groups, fostering well-rounded and skilled leaders within their communities and strengthening public safety, public trust, and equal justice.

Graduates in the CVILA’s inaugural cohort include:

● Leonard Dungee – Atlanta, GA

● Dante Johnson – Baltimore, MD

● Freedom Jones – Baltimore, MD

● Jason Little – Chicago, IL

● Sheri Ruffai – Chicago, IL

● Rodney Phillips – Chicago, IL

● Samuel Castro – Chicago, IL

● Edwin Galletti – Chicago, IL

● David Williams – Chicago, IL

● Jaunita Pye – Chicago, IL

● Toni McNeil – Stockton, CA

● Myesha Watkins – Cleveland, OH

● Dujuan Kennedy – Detroit, MI

● Alivia Langley – Hartford, CT

● Guadalupe Washington – Houston, TX

● Daniel Zamora – Los Angeles, CA

● Skipp Townsend – Los Angeles, CA

● Lyle Muhammad – Miami, FL

● Tanisha Gibson – Minneapolis, MN

● Rasheedat Fetuga – Nashville, TN

● Patrick Young – New Orleans, LA

● Fayth Henderson – New York, NY

● Anthony Jennings – New York, NY

● Nicole Myers – New York, NY

● Lakeesha Eure – Newark, NJ

● Raysean Brown – Orlando, FL

● DeAngelo Harris-Rosa – Philadelphia, PA

● Sierra Ellis – Portland, OR

● Julius Thibodeaux – Sacramento, CA

● Dwayne Comer – Syracuse, NY

● Jovan Davis – Washington, DC

The Community Safety Leadership Academies were launched with a leadership gift from Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel and founder of Griffin Catalyst, and a gift from the Sacks Family Foundation. The CSLA is also supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bulqit, Bulls Community Assist Fund, and White Sox Community Fund, which are both funds of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation (support for the CVILA), Dalio Education, John DeBlasio/DeBlasio Family Foundation, Thomas and Susan Dunn, Matt Hinerfeld and Nora Jaskowiak, IMC, Ken O’Keefe, Motorola Solutions Foundation (support for the PLA), Neubauer Family Foundation, The Options Clearing Corporation, RJ Melman and Lettuce Entertain You, Jeff and Maggie Shapack and Shapack Partners, and United Airlines.

The Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy’s graduation is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Everytown Community Safety Fund, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Gun Violence Solutions, RJ Melman and Lettuce Entertain You, Steans Family Foundation, and United Airlines.

Learn more about the CVILA and how to apply to join the next cohort here.

The University of Chicago Community Safety Leadership Academies is an initiative of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. It includes the Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy (CVILA) and Policing Leadership Academy (PLA), first-of-their-kind programs to train the next generation of community violence intervention and policing leaders from across America.

This article originally appeared at Crime Lab.


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