Greetings extended family and loved ones of the Mediation Center!

Last Wednesday marked the end of another great year with YO S.OS where we held our commencement ceremony for our 2018 cohort.

Our very own, David Gaskin, Project Manager for S.O.S Crown Heights, was the master of ceremonies for the night. He spoke beautifully about the intersections between YO S.O.S and the work of our credible messengers on the street team.

There was a youth panel led by David Gaskin and Youth Programs Specialist and former Violence Interrupter, Rahson Johnson.

When asked to describe YO S.O.S in her own words, youth panelist, Janae Brewster, “YO SOS is basically kind like a safe space where it’s almost like a family where you just go and talk about everything and you actually learn a lot. I feel like I learned a lot about myself and how to communicate with others as well as how engage with the community.”

Destiny Singleton, youth panelist said about the program, “I’ve grown to learn myself. It sounds crazy because I live in my body every day 24/7. But I learned how to communicate better with people of different ages. I’ve learned how to be more comfortable around people quicker than usual, which is kind of a good and bad thing but I feel like I’m exposing myself to different things which is really really good because I usually don’t–I usually stick with what I’m normal to.”

Marlon Peterson gave a moving keynote speech about letting your intentions guide you and letting your fears challenge you. He spoke about his journey from his time in prison, to being a violence interrupter here at the Mediation Center, to having the vision to create YO S.O.S back in 2010 where he came up with the idea to canvass the neighborhood spreading holiday cheer and positivity–a tradition we still uphold today called, the Kingston Winter Windows project.

Marlon captivated the audience with his journey since then, founding the organization, How Our Lives Link Altogether (H.O.L.L.A), and then founding the podcast, Decarcerated, which spotlights people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system and where they have moved since then as well the social justice consulting firm called, The Precedential Group.

The graduation was a beautiful event filled with celebration, tears, and most of all the love this group had for one another.