Christina Hernandez, Coordinator of the Diocese of Oakland's Office for Life and Justice, announced that the Peace and Justice Academy has received the 2017 Social Innovation Award from Catholic Charities USA's Partners in Excellence program.
The criteria for the award included:
- An innovative solution to a community problem.
- Demonstration of positive impact to address root causes of poverty.
- Is the program sustainable and is it easily replicable?
- Does the program include key community partners?
- Does the program align with Catholic Charities strategic priorities?
The overarching aim of Oakland's 2016 Peace and Justice Academy is to heal West Contra Costa youth who are impacted by trauma and community violence and help them become empowered, resilient young people who can create change in their schools and communities through the use of restorative practices, community organizing, and the arts. More than half of the participants have been transferred out of mainstream high schools due to academic or behavior issues. The program includes creative activities that encourage self-expression, training in restorative circles for conflict resolution, and exposure to community organizing through workshops with local organizing partners.