Youth Leadership & Gun Violence Prevention

(YLGVP) Curriculum Project

The overall goal of the NYAM’s curriculum intervention is both the development of youth-led compassionate communities that promote personal leadership and gun violence prevention within schools and the study of these communities’ potential to reduce gun violence and increase youth social and political capital.


Limited research on gun violence due to the Dickey Amendment’s quashing of targeted federal funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the passage of no federal firearm legislation over several decades has given the public little recourse to address what has evolved into a public health crisis. The Dickey Amendment is a provision in the appropriations legislation of the Congress, which was originally passed in 1996 and has remained in effect annually since, that mandates that "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control." This political maneuvering of powerful interests over the well-being of a vulnerable population is a story of David versus Goliath, which is a quintessential story of inequality. This arts-based curriculum and subsequent study will help redress this imbalance by directly equipping youth with institutional supports to elevate their cause and provide new insights for the social science research community into the efficacy of arts- and education-based solutions on public health issues.



Target Population and Programmatic Goals


NYAM’s target population are high school sophomores and juniors on the west and south sides of Chicago. As part of the NYAM curriculum intervention, two services are to be provided: (1) the implementation of an arts-based youth leadership and gun violence prevention curriculum and (2) support and guidance for the development of youth-led compassionate communities in schools.


NYAM’s arts-based curriculum will provide a structured and progressive learning environment that will serve as the foundation and catalyst for youth-led compassionate communities in schools. The program-level goals of the NYAM curriculum intervention are to develop within each student and within their high schools a strong foundation for catalyzing pro-social behaviors among youth that


1) Expands their capacity for building relationships,


2) Engenders a creative orientation for addressing life's obstacles, and


3) Demonstrates through coursework how to address emotional and mental strain constructively by applying their passions and feelings of disillusionment to creative endeavors and civic and community engagement.



Curriculum Overview


The curriculum has been designed into five modules to be implemented sequentially. It involves approximately 90 days of 60-minute lessons for an academic year. Teachers can choose to combine lessons to create longer class times, if needed. Also, teachers can choose how many days per week the course is offered, while keeping in mind that the curriculum needs to be completed within one year. At the close of the curriculum, the development of peer-led compassionate communities begins.

YLGVP Curriculum Think Tank Team

Subject Matter Experts

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Dr. Janice T. Samuels

Founding Executive Director of the National Youth Art Movement Against Gun Violence

Janice Samuels is an educational technology leader, writer, and activist whose mission is to “help others know themselves, own their power, and live full and glorious lives that produce that best of what we are as humans, dreamers, and believers.” Throughout her career she has translated this mission into innovative programs and learning solutions that engage and empower students, faculty, peers, and the community to facilitate change.


Dr. Samuels is the founder and executive director of the National Youth Art Movement Against Gun Violence (NYAM), a Chicago-based fiscally sponsored nonprofit project that combines art activism and Augmented Reality technology to provide marginalized youth with the opportunity to be thought leaders in gun violence prevention. In less than three years, she has secured numerous supporters and partners and gained international and national attention through multiple conference presentations and publications, including a showcase of NYAM youth artwork at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Dr. Samuels also holds a Doctorate of Education in Learning Technologies from Pepperdine University, Master of Arts in Management with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Regent University and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Rollins College.

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Dr. Tanya Sharpe

Factor- Inwentash Endowed Chair in Social Work in the Global Community, University of Toronto

Tanya Sharpe joined the Factor-Inwentash Faculty in July 2018 after serving as an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Social Work for 11 years. She received her Ph.D. in Social Work from Boston College located in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Sharpe is a community-based researcher who is passionately committed to the development of

culturally responsive approaches and sustainable opportunities allowing Black communities to thrive

in the face of homicide violence.

Her research examines sociocultural factors that influence the

coping strategies of Black family members and friends of homicide victims. She has developed culturally

appropriate interventions and best practices designed to assist African-American survivors of homicide victims in the management of their grief and bereavement. Her comprehensive Model of Coping for African-American Survivors of Homicide Victims (MCAASHV) (Sharpe, 2015) has informed the development of a psychosocial educational intervention (Sharpe, Iwamoto, Massey & Michalopoulos, 2018), and a tool of measurement designed to assess the needs and coping strategies of African American survivors of homicide victims.

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Dr. Kelvin A. Ramirez

Associate Professor,  Expressive Arts, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA

Kelvin A. Ramirez is a board certified Art Therapist with years of experience incorporating art therapy within educational systems to enhance student’s personal and academic growth. A Board Member of FNEI, a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Boston, MA, Dr. Ramirez has taken his expertise and shared them internationally, collaborating with educators, community leaders, mental health professionals and art therapist in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, India and Mexico. Dr. Ramirez is an Associate Professor in the Division of Expressive Arts Therapies with dual appointments in the Division of Global Interdisciplinary Studies and the Graduate School of Education.

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Robert Fritz

Best-selling Author of "The Path of Least Resistance" and Consultant

For over thirty years, Robert Fritz has been developing the field of structural dynamics through his work, first in the area of the creative process, and then in the area of organizational, business, and management issues.  He is the founder of Robert Fritz, Inc., and, along with Peter Senge and Charlie Kiefer, Innovation Associates.

His first major book on the relationship of structure to human behavior was The Path of Least Resistance, followed by Creating, Corporate Tides, The Path of Least Resistance for Managers and Your Life as Art.  This book takes the technology and applies it to organizations. These books, along with his trainings have introduced revolutionary ideas about the influence of structural causality on human beings, both as individuals and within organizations.  His book The Managerial Moment of Truth, was selected as one of the best business books of 2007 by BusinessWeek magazine.  Elements – The Writings of Robert Fritz is a collection of Fritz’s articles and blogs.  His latest book, co-authored by Dr. Wayne Andersen, is Identity. His publishers include Simon & Schuster, Ballantine Books, Berrett-Koehler, and Newfane Press. Fritz’s books have been translated into German, Dutch, Swedish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

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Bella Masterson

Co-Founder of Teen Artists Creative Oasis

Bella Masterson (she/her) is a 21-year-old organizer and art educator from Chicago, currently living in Philadelphia as a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. She is pursuing a double major in Cinema and Media Studies and Urban Studies, with an academic focus on the community benefits of nonprofit arts and film institutions. As co-founder of Teen Artists’ Creative Oasis (T.A.C.O.), she empowers teen artists by creating spaces dedicated to free expression, and has encouraged numerous art organizations in Chicago to prioritize youth leadership in their curatorial visions and program models. She has held internships and fellowships at arts institutions such as the Chicago International Film Festival, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. 

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Isabella Kiser

Co-Founder of Teen Artists Creative Oasis

Isabella Kiser (she/her) is a 22-year-old arts organizer and advocate, artist, and student. She is enrolled in a 5-year dual degree program at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she pursues a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Urban Studies focusing on sustainability, equity, and policy and a B.F.A. in Studio Art. Through her work with Teen Artists’ Creative Oasis (T.A.C.O.), youth and adult artists, and various other arts organizations, she hopes to change the art history canon by making the art world a more inclusive and diverse space. She also hopes to one day study urban planning and design to reimagine the cityscape as an equitable and sustainable place.

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Dr. Ricardo Omar Elizalde, Sr. 

Teacher on Special Assignment , Department of Technology, San Francisco Unified School District

Dr. Ricardo Omar Elizalde, Sr. honed his craft of teaching for 18 years in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). A lifelong learner, Ricardo started to experiment with multimedia projects early in his teaching career as an English and English Learner teacher. From puppet shows to film festivals, Ricardo enjoyed creating a classroom community of storytellers and media-makers. HIs current work explores media literacy and building student voice via portfolios, podcasting, film making and the building of digital communities. Vital to his work is building on the definition of Critical Digital Literacy.  He is a Doctor of Education in Learning Technologies. His dissertation blends language learning with multimedia making and sharing across digital platforms. For the past two years, he has also been a KQED Media Literacy Innovator.


Sara Knizhnik

Director of Community Engagement, Newtown Action Alliance

Sara Knizhnik holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MA from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.  She served as a university-level English-as-a-Second-Language Instructor at various universities in the Chicago area for 17 years before becoming first a volunteer, part-time gun violence prevention (GVP) advocate with Moms Demand Action and then a full-time, professional GVP advocate with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV). Sara is the founder and president of Open Door Communications, a communications firm that provides ghostwriting, editing and proofreading services as well as workshops and training seminars in intercultural communication and cultural competence. Sara’s works to educate the public about how they can become active in the GVP movement and effectively lobby their legislators and other elected officials to support the reduction of gun violence through various local, state and federal GVP organizations. Sara lives in Vernon Hills with her husband and two children.


Liz Gomez

Art Activist, National Youth Art Movement Against Gun Violence and Founder, Divine Gratitude Project

Liz Gomez’s artistic career began in 2007 as a portrait artist in their home state of San Antonio, TX. Gomez moved to Illinois to attend The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received a BFA in 2014. They currently hold residency in The Hunter Radcliffe Artist Residency program and are an alumni of The Chicago Artist Coalition, Field/Work Residency program.

In 2018, Gomez founded Divine Gratitude, a live portrait video series designed to bring visibility to individuals whose stories show the positive impacts of authenticity and service within a community. Their various works have been shown at Rootwork Gallery, Chicago; Stony Island Arts Bank; Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Minneapolis; Phantom Gallery; William Hill Gallery, Chicago Cultural Center; The 

Museum of Science and Industry; Aplomb Gallery, Chicago; The Gene Siskel Film Center; Evanston Art Center 22nd, Chicago.

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Duane de Four

Doctoral Candidate, University of Massachusetts Boston and Owner, DD4 Consulting

Duane de Four is an educator, media critic and activist with more than twenty years of experience developing strategic initiatives, policies, and curricula as well as facilitating discussions focused on issues ranging from sexual and dating violence prevention, masculinity, privilege, power and accountability to sexual health.

Duane has done this work in a wide variety of settings, including; the NFLNBANHLMLB and NASCAR, all branches of the U.S. Military, colleges and universities across the United States, high schools, middle schools, non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the US and in Nairobi, Kenya, and youth detention centers. He has also provided expert witness testimony in legislative hearings and domestic violence related cases.

Duane is currently working toward a PhD in Higher Education at UMass Boston, while teaching at Merrimack College and serving as a member of the MA Governor’s Council on SA/DV and the board of directors at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC).

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Marquis Sewell

Art Activist, National Youth Art Movement and Morehouse College Student

Marquis is a 19 year-old who attends Morehouse College. In being born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Marquis provides a different perspective on the beauty that is within his city. Through the use of his photography, Marquis hopes to cultivate a new perception of his hometown and to create awareness of social issues across the country.

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Leah LaQueens

Art Activist, National Youth Art Movement and Owner, LaQueens & Things

Leah LaQueens is self taught artist and educator from Chicago with a concentration in digital graphics and expressive paintings. Leah's subjects  are mainly women who through her artwork she personifies to reflect issues and injustices effecting today's society. Leah founded LaQueens & Things in November 2018, an art design house, that places empowering art on products from home decor to apparel. 

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Rachel Patrick, Esq

Retired American Bar Association Director

Ms. Patrick is a recent retiree from the American Bar Association after working tirelessly for 39 years in several key positions to promote diversity, create social justice programs, and promote equal opportunities for individuals and lawyers of color.  She has mentored, inspired and helped to develop successful careers of thousands of law students and lawyers of color during her tenure at the Association.

Her goal of promoting diversity and equal opportunities started long before her legal career.  Prior to graduating from DePaul College of Law, she received a B.A. in Education from the University of Illinois, and a M.S. in Reading from Chicago State University.  She spent 12 challenging years teaching in the inner city for the Chicago Public Schools.   As an English teacher, she mentored, inspired and assisted hundreds of disadvantaged students of color to seek careers in law, medicine and education.

 Her work with Dennis Archer (first African American President of the ABA), Robert Grey (second African American President of the ABA), and Paulette Brown (first African American woman President of the ABA), inspired her to serve as the Director of the ABA Task Force on Minorities in the Profession. This first of its kind Task Force provided Ms. Patrick with an outstanding opportunity to play an instrumental role in making history by assisting with the drafting and creation of the Association’s
Goal 9, (the first Goal to be dedicated to diversity), and the historical Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession.  She served as the first director of this historic Commission, and she played a crucial role as part of the dynamic teams that created, developed and designed the historical Minority Counsel Demonstration Program, the Conference of Minority Partners, the Multi-Cultural Women Attorneys Network, and the Spirit of Excellence Award.

In her final position with the ABA, she was the Director of the Coalition on Racial & Ethnic Justice where she continued to dedicate and commit herself to social justice issues, diversity, and civil rights issues e.g. Stand Your Ground, School-to-Prison Pipeline, Teen Violence, Gun Violence, and Bridging the Gap between Law Enforcement and Communities of Color through Hackathons.

Ms. Patrick has made outstanding contributions to the legal profession, communities of color, law students and lawyers of color. She has been nationally recognized and received countless awards from the National Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, National Association of Black Women Attorneys, Native American Bar Association, Hispanic Law Students of Chicago, Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO), and the American Bar Association. Her commitment and dedication to diversity have made a positive and profound impact on the lives and future of individuals from all backgrounds.