Youth Leadership & Gun Violence Prevention
(YL-GVP) 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. 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.
The curriculum has been designed into four modules to be implemented sequentially. It involves approximately 54 days of 60-to-75 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 semester. At the close of the curriculum, the development of peer-led compassionate communities begins.
YL-GVP Curriculum Project Team
Subject Matter Experts
Dr. Janice T. Samuels
Founding Executive Director of the National Youth Art Movement
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.
Dr. Joshua Fisher
Assistant Professor of Emerging Media, Design, and Development, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
Since earning his doctorate from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2019, Dr. Fisher has served three years in rank as an assistant professor at Columbia College, where he developed a top-ranked Immersive Media minor and BA program and runs two separate XR labs for the development of simulations, immersive experiences, and volumetric content. He has taught courses on interaction design, user experiences, serious games and simulations, AI, and immersive media.
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.
Consultant and Best-selling Author of "The Path of Least Resistance"
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.
Chair, Gun Violence Prevention Initiative, Office of the State's Attorney, Lake County, IL
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 a professional gun violence prevention (GVP) and criminal justice reform advocate. She has served in recent years as the Organizer of the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition and then as Director of Community Engagement for Newtown Action Alliance (NAA), a national gun violence prevention GVP organization founded in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Sara is currently Chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative at the Lake County (IL) State’s Attorney’s Office. She is also a Vernon Township Trustee and a Candidate for the Lake County Board, District 18. District 18 includes Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Hawthorn Woods, Kildeer, Long Grove and Lake Zurich. She believes passionately in local government and in the power of grassroots activists to build a better America. Sara lives in Vernon Hills, IL with her husband and two children.
Duane de Four
Interim Executive Director, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and Doctoral Candidate, University of Massachusetts Boston
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 NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB 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 as the Interim Executive Director for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC).
B'Rael Ali Thunder
Artist and NYAM Alumni
B'Rael is a painter, poet, and dancer who sees himself as a creative force and bringer of truth. Art for B'Rael is a way to solve the problems of today in order to create a better future. His work predominately features dancing figures that are meant to express the African American experience in thematic and stylistic compositions that combine historical symbols and ritual with visions for the future. B'Rael has a BFA in painting and drawing from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.