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Youth From LA's Most Violent Neighborhoods Present "Shifting Minds From Violence to Peace"


November 17, 2011 - LOS ANGELES, CA

Soledad Enrichment Action (SEA), LA County's leading provider of education, social services, and intervention/prevention/reentry programs for youth at risk of gangs and violence, will hold the 2nd Annual Youth Peace Movement Conference at the University of Southern California (USC). During this two-day conference, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work in banning landmines in war-torn countries, will work directly with youth from Los Angeles' most violent neighborhoods along with students from USC to develop strategies that will bring peace to their communities.

"The most important thing about this conference is that the youth themselves will take the lead with Ms. Williams, in finding solutions to the 'landmines' they face every day -- random violence, poverty, and hopelessness," said Nathan Arias, SEA's President and CEO. "By bringing youth from all over Los Angeles County together with a Nobel Peace Price winner and the people from USC, one of the nation's most respected universities, I am certain that many viable ideas, strategies, and tactics will emerge."

"The usual approach to stopping gang violence is to look only at the problems," said Sr. Ines Telles. "The approach of the Youth Peace Movement is to empower these young people to stand for something: to stand for peace and to address not only the root causes of violence in their communities, but also the strength, the beauty, and the amazing potential that is there as well. By changing themselves, they will change their communities."

The culmination of the two-day conference will be the closing Peace Drum Ceremony. Billed as "The Beat of 100 Drums," this traditional Native American ceremony is performed to promote peace. The ceremony will be led by Native American elders accompanied by 325 student drummers and other youth via Skype from around the country.

SEA's Youth Peace Movement

SEA's Youth Peace Movement was founded three years ago by the youth at the SEA Charter School with the support and direction of Sr. Ines Telles. It aims to help individual students recognize the significance of self-awareness and self-development, by providing specialized training to address interpersonal thoughts and emotions that have historically hindered high-risk youth with limiting and destructive behaviors. The Youth Peace Movement engages high-risk youth in community service projects, connects them with others working for individual and community peace, and develops leadership skills to work towards improving the quality of life for others in their community.

Soledad Enrichment Action, Inc.

Soledad Enrichment Action, Inc. is a private non-profit agency that serves more than 5,000 youth and families annually throughout Los Angeles County. Founded in 1972 by mothers in East Los Angeles whose sons had been killed by gang violence, its services are based on a holistic approach to solving the problems of at risk youth, one designed to strengthen the entire family in order to help their youngsters prepare for healthy, responsible, and productive lives. Its programs include the SEA Charter School, a WASQ-accredited alternative high school for at risk youth, which has seventeen sites throughout Los Angeles County; Wrap-around Social Services, including substance abuse and mental health counseling, teen Pregnancy prevention, career development and job skills preparation, and a daily afterschool program of tutoring, enrichment activities, and recreation; Gang Intervention/Prevention and Juvenile Reentry programs; and Parents Helping Parents, a 20-week parenting course especially designed for the parents of high risk youth.

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