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CIRCLE UP! YOUTH RESTORATIVE JUSTICE ARTS

A Brooklyn based 501(c)3 non profit organization. 

Established: February, 2024

The most important and defining lessons I have learned in my life have happened in my classroom.

 

The idea of starting an arts-based youth development program for youth based on restorative practices was born because of one of those defining moments 15 years ago while teaching a Saturday morning drumming ensemble class at a public school in the Upper West Side.

 

One day, a Black, Muslim teenager, showed up late to class, visibly shaken, and immediately put his head down. This same young man, who had been excited in previous weeks, appeared to have had his light stolen by the NYPD when they Stopped & Frisked him in front of his peers on his way to school. Once he shared with the class that at the age of 14, he had more Stop-and-Frisk experiences than birthdays, our class was collectively transformed. In the spirit of a restorative justice circle, students and I took turns affirming him, listening to him, offering support. As a class, we decided to create an original musical song entitled “Stop Stop & Frisk” as a way to channel hurt into healing through both music and restorative justice circle initiatives.

 

The seeds for Circle Up! & The Circle Keepers were born from such transformative experiences in my classroom, harnessing the power of arts based and restorative justice based education to teach young people how to make sense of and change the world for better.

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OUR STORY

The Circle Keepers started in 2017 as a volunteer-run after school program for high school

students to learn restorative justice practices such as peer mediation protocols,
conflict resolution circles and community building activities as well as to hone their
leadership skills, engage in political education, civic participation and produce community
service/social justice projects and thus, create change in their school and in their
neighborhoods.​

  • 100% of student participants surveyed report that The Circle Keepers program made their school experience more meaningful

  • Started youth-led restorative justice cohorts in 8 different public schools, across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Bronx. 

  • Helped reduce suspensions by 95% at one Manhattan borough school in District 2 in the span of 4 years (2019-2023)

  • Testified for City Council to successfully restore over $32M of funding cuts towards restorative justice justice programming in NYC Public Schools from 2022-2024.

  • Developed a comprehensive Restorative Justice Curriculum for grades 6-8 and grades 9-12, currently offered as semester long electives in a D2 and a D15 school.

  • Trained over 1000 students as restorative justice peer mediators,

    Trained over 100 NYC Public School staff in school based restorative justice practices.

    Traveled to Austin, TX to present a sold-out workshop at the SXSWedu 2023 conference of over 100 guests.

  • Traveled to Washington, DC to meet with Leader Charles Schumer to learn about federal policy and  explored the National Museum of African American History and Culture to develop a stronger sense of Black epistemologies and ontologies.

  • Produced a “Green New Deal for Public Schools” roundtable with Congressman Jamaal Bowman at Sarah Lawrence College.

  • Produced youth led conference for 250+ NYC youth, rooted on the theme of “peace and justice”, bringing together 50+ stakeholders, including youth development organizations, city agencies, elected officials and even private businesses donating food and supplies!​

SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS

MEET THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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