Protecting Places of Worship Forum Held to Prevent and Combat Hate Crimes, Acts of Religious Violence, and Discrimination
MIAMI – For the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, South Florida high school students are participating in the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) Peace Ambassadors Leadership Program.
Some 110 students from 11 area high schools recently gathered in Miami Jackson Senior High’s auditorium to learn about the program and commit to seeing it through. Students will become leaders in both their schools and in their communities. The program is a collaboration between Miami-Dade School District and staff from the USAO for the Southern District of Florida. Students will have a monthly classroom challenge as well as a community challenge.
Past classroom challenges have included teaching conflict resolution skills to underclassmen and past community challenges have seen students pack “essentials bags” to distribute to the homeless as well as organize park cleanups.
“It’s rewarding when you find students who lean into it and make the most of the program,” said USAO Law Enforcement Coordination Specialist Michael L. Martinez. “It feels good to hear their success stories.”
The program teaches students to focus on core principles such as integrity, authenticity, and empathy to look within and take on projects that are personal to them. Creating positive environments and activities in communities that struggle with violence can have a snowball effect and may be able to offset some of the negativity these communities experience.
“How many here are happy with safety in your communities?” asked Law Enforcement Coordination and Community Outreach Section Chief J.D. Smith, USAO. “How many think it could be better?” Many student hands went up to signify that improvements could be made. “Why not you? That is the question. You could be the people who change your communities for the better … change your families for the better.”
According to Smith, the key is start small and focus on oneself. Strive to be better every day. By doing so, students can lay a foundation that will get stronger with every positive action taken. Only then can they move on to affect others in a positive manner.
“They should work on themselves first, then start working on their families, and then on to their schools and communities,” said Smith. “That is how it starts. You have to take those first steps. This is about the students in the program being positive role models. If they take anything away from this, be positive role models in your families and communities.”
Law Enforcement Coordination and Community Outreach Section Chief J.D. Smith presents to area high school students on the USAO Peace Ambassador Leadership Program. This program encourages and helps students become leaders in their communities.
Public Affairs Unit
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida