I’m Pete, an AmeriCorps member working as the YO S.O.S. Program Associate for the 2012-2013 year. I’m excited to be a part of YO S.O.S and the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center!

I came to Crown Heights and CHCMC after living for almost two years in Bogotá, Colombia, where I worked as a freelance editor, writer, and English teacher. In Colombia I found my way in a completely new environment. Bogotá is a city the size of New York, with much greater poverty and inequality, poor infrastructure, significant tears in the social fabric, and crime levels far above those of New York and most American cities. As a young person and an outsider there, I found myself both resilient in the face of many challenges and severely shaken by all that I saw and experienced.

I joined the YO S.O.S. and CHCMC teams in October, and in the short time since then I’ve been able to experience so much here. YO S.O.S. has grown into a huge program, filling the YOasis (our workshop space) to capacity. The youth organizers have begun their community outreach. S.O.S. has held several community events. CHCMC has assisted many neighborhood residents. And, unfortunately, we’ve had several shooting responses.

As a Crown Heights resident, the missions of CHCMC and S.O.S. are my missions too. The work that we do at the Mediation Center is work that I try to continue even when I’m outside my professional role. I walk from my home to my job, and the streets I pass aren’t just the sites of my work; they’re also, more importantly, my neighborhood, and the people with me on the streets are my neighbors. For me, poverty and violence in Crown Heights are problems to work to end in both my professional and my personal lives.

I was raised in communities that taught me the values of kindness, compassion, understanding, equality, and citizenship. Now, I’m honored to be part of YO S.O.S. and CHCMC, because they embody those values and many more. Every day my colleagues and the youth organizers I work with inspire me to renew my commitment to what I believe in, and to improving Crown Heights. I’m thrilled to work with and on behalf of such great people, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.