Metropolitan Peace Academy Looks To Expand Work With New Training Facility

Metropolitan Peace Academy recently opened a brick-and-mortar facility in Pilsen where it will host its community violence intervention training for outreach workers, victim advocates, case managers and others involved in CVI work. PHOTO PROVIDED BY METROPOLITAN FAMILY SERVICES.
Metropolitan Peace Academy recently opened a brick-and-mortar facility in Pilsen where it will host its community violence intervention training for outreach workers, victim advocates, case managers and others involved in CVI work. PHOTO PROVIDED BY METROPOLITAN FAMILY SERVICES.

Metropolitan Peace Academy Looks To Expand Work With New Training Facility

By Tia Carol Jones

The Metropolitan Peace Academy now has a brick-and-mortar facility to hold its community violence intervention training.

Metropolitan Peace Academy started in 2018 with eight community-based organizations that came together with the hope to reduce shootings and homicides in the city, as well as reclaiming safe spaces in neighborhoods. It also aimed to professionalize street outreach through the Metropolitan Peace Academy. The first cohort was 25 outreach workers who had lived experiences, and some were returning citizens.

“We wanted to make sure we captured their expertise, but at the same time, provided another lift to the best practices and strategies and techniques on how they did their work,” said Dr. Vanessa DeReef  the Chief Training Officer of Metropolitan Peace Academy.


The Metropolitan Peace Academy is the training arm of The Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, a division of Metropolitan Family Services. Metropolitan Peace Initiatives currently serves 13 community-based organizations across Chicago who operate in 27 communities across the city to help eradicate gun violence in the community.


 Each of the community-based organizations employ street outreach workers, case managers and victim advocates. Metropolitan Peace Initiatives supports them either through training, back-office support or legal aid support.

DeReef said that in addition to the community violence intervention work and creating best practices for that work, Metropolitan Peace Academy also builds community. Building community is important because the people who do the intervention work have experienced their own trauma and the work they do can be traumatizing. There is a trauma-informed learning environment that includes music and food, as well as a check-in so they can share how they are feeling.


The cohort is 18 weeks and throughout the course, they form a professional network that focuses on how to eradicate gun violence in Chicago, while sharing their own stories, connections to the work and connections to each other. So far, 400 people have come through the Metropolitan Peace Academy since it was launched in 2018. Metropolitan Peace Academy also trains case managers and victim advocates.


“We wanted to make sure that because gun violence is such a prominent concern, mostly in our marginalized communities, we wanted to make sure that these men and women that we train are trauma-informed; that they know how to align their practices to the needs of the people that we serve,” DeReef said.


After the training is complete, a graduation ceremony takes place to celebrate the trainees’ accomplishments. The vision is, as there is capacity built to professionalize community violence intervention work, those who do the work will lead the work.


With the new brick-and-mortar facility, which is located at 2100 S. Morgan, the goal is that the Metropolitan Peace Academy will be a professional development center for the community violence intervention infrastructure. A financial literacy course also has been launched, with others in the work. The goal is to fulfill whatever professional need the trainees might have and help them as professionals.


Before the Metropolitan Peace Academy opened its facility, the training took place at different locations throughout the city, including Northeastern Illinois University and in parks during the pandemic.


“Now that we have a place of our own, we can now invite those around the country to come in for these three- to five-day intensives that will explain to them how we do our work, or wherever their interests lie,” DeReef said, adding that The Metropolitan Peace Academy receives inquiries from around the country about different aspects of the organization’s work.


DeReef also said that having the location in Pilsen enables it to serve as a community beacon, a resource for the city and a refuge for community outreach workers. The Metropolitan Peace Academy will continue to evolve in its new space and shift as needed.


For more information about Metropolitan Peace Academy, visit https://metropolitanpeaceinitiatives.org/metropolitan-peace-academy.

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