Youth Conference Seeks to Develop Youth Leaders and Strengthen Communities

Darlene Nowlin
May 31, 2024

Young Adults ages 18 through 30, professionals from youth-serving community-based organizations, and faith-based communities joined the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) at the Youth Leadership Development Conference and Knowledge Exchange at Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center in Marriottsville, MD.

The conference kicked off with speakers designed to empower and develop youth and attendees. GPF Senior Advisor and Board Member Alan J. Inman shared GPF’s values-based approach to peacebuilding and inspired youth through the story of a 15-year-old who sparked a movement during the civil rights era. Inman left participants with this call to action, “Can you do something? You have the power to change the course of this country, your community.”                        

Hala Furst, associate director for Strategic Engagement and Policy Implementation at the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) followed up with her charge, “We have you. We have the agents of change.” She concluded with, “We will do it together so let’s get it done.” 

The final words of empowerment came from Shazel Muhammad, CEO of Eunoia Global and founder of the African Link Initiative (ALI), who reminded participants that “young people bring new solutions to worldwide problems. Leadership has no age.” 

Convicted school shooter and current advocate for mental health and gun control Jon Romano of Jon Seeking Peace shared what problems created his grievance and led him to commit a school shooting. Along with his riveting story, he included his thoughts on preventing future shootings and his work after returning to society, helping to make a difference.  

“I was very pleased that we facilitated an entire day of Service Project Design and Technical Support for our Mini-Grant applicants,” said Cat Lockman, Director of Organizational Development at GPF. We are expecting to award four summer mini-projects to some deserving community based folks, already very active in the community.”

Sharing their program with the group were Laura Kralicky and Emily Stingle co-creators of the Developing & Using Critical Comprehension (DUCC) Project, an Invent2Prevent winner from American University. Invent2Prevent empowers university and high school students to prevent targeted violence and terrorism in their local communities and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships and managed by EdVenture Partners, the Eradicate Hate Global Summit, and Credence Management Solutions, LLC.

The serene backdrop of the retreat center also served as a catalyst for honest and healthy discussions about community safety and resilience. As part of the knowledge exchange, New Jersey Urban Peacebuilding Director Wanda Moore, Rev. Gary Holden, Police Chaplin Program Founder and Director, and Dave Leonardis, representing the State of New Jersey Attorney General’s office shared best practices and the role of community in violence prevention. 

This project was made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, opportunity number DHS-22-TTP-132-00-01. The conference offered scholarships for attendees and will award mini-grants to successful applicants to help prevent targeted violence and acts of terrorism in local communities.


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