Social Sustainability, Teen to Teen  - PROVIDENCE, RI— In a storefront on Providence’s south side, ten high school students sit down one evening to a curriculum they won’t find in school: how to promote nonviolent social change. For the next two months, they will learn everything they can about violence prevention and workshop facilitation—and then pass on that knowledge to younger teens.

It may seem a titanic task—but that’s just right for these new members of TITAN (Teens Informing Teens About Nonviolence), one of several peer education programs at Youth In Action, a local youth development organization.

“We’ll start with the six principles that will guide everything you do here,” says Erroll Lomba, the thirty-something youth organizer who oversees peer education here. In keeping with YIA practice, he turns the rest over to TITAN’s two youth Co-Coordinators.

“It’s all about “G [good] Behavior” and “Scrub” [bad] Behavior,” explains Monay Threats-McNeil, who at 15 has risen through the ranks to facilitator. She and her “co,” Oluwaseun (Olu) Animashaun, also 15, point to the wall chart where they have listed the six principles and the good and bad behaviors tied to each.

“What’s the good behavior here?” Monay asks when she reaches the fourth principle, “supreme professionality.”

“It’s about doing things for the betterment of the team, even when you don’t like it. Like, when you have an issue, handling it in a cool and calm manner,” says Masha, a high school sophomore.

And the negative behavior? Olu answers her own question:

“It’s taking things personally, shutting down when a co-worker or staff asks you to do something. If we ask you to do something, you need to see that it’s for the good of the team and yourself. We’re not doing it to be mean, we’re not doing it to be upright and righteous—we’re doing it for the betterment of the team. Don’t take it personally. Just do it. Then find the right moment later on to handle in a positive way what you didn’t like about the situation.”

“This is the easy part,” Monay tells the group as they finish. “Here’s the hard part: You have to internalize every one of these principles. We’re here to help you with that, we got you. But it’s up to you to work on the stuff that stops you from doing all the great things you can do.”

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