Metropolitan Peace Initiatives Celebrates the Grand Opening of the Metropolitan Peace Academy Training & Wellness Center in Pilsen
The Metropolitan Peace Initiatives (MPI) celebrated the grand opening of the Metropolitan Peace Academy (MPA) Training & Wellness Center with a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, January 12, 2024 in Pilsen. The new site, located at 2100 S. Morgan St., serves as a community violence intervention (CVI) training center for outreach workers, case managers, victim advocates, trauma recovery specialists, as well as community trainings for Chicago residents and police officers.
ABC 7 anchor Val Warner hosted the event as more than 125 guests — ranging from elected officials to Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) professionals to local residents and others — gathered together in excitement for the debut of the new location. Prior to the MPA’s opening, trainings were held at various sites across the city.
“As a Black man having the privilege to help Black and Brown men, mostly in my generation, to heal and be better, I want to give you guys the world and [the Metropolitan Peace Academy] is it,” said MPI Executive Director Vaughn Bryant to his staff, MPA graduates, and current cohort members.
Speakers also included Metropolitan Family Services (MFS) President and CEO Ric Estrada, MPI Chief Training Officer Dr. Vanessa Perry-DeReef, a rep for Sen. Dick Durbin, UCAN President and CEO Christa Hamilton, Sen. Robert Peters, MPI Senior Field Manager of Field Operations Billy “Bo” Deal, Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, Chicago’s Deputy Mayor of Community Safety Garien Gatewood, Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities (PSPC) Executive Director Esther Franco-Payne, and MFS Board Chair David Tropp.
“Trauma lies at the heart of so much pain and conflict in our neighborhoods, as evidenced by a recent study revealing that half of Chicago residents have been exposed to gun violence,” said Sen. Durbin in a statement. Sen. Durbin was instrumental in the expansion of the MPA, securing $800,000 in earmark funding through the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) omnibus appropriations bill.
He continued, “The official opening of the Metropolitan Peace Academy symbolizes hope — a cumulation of years dedicated to improving public safety and access to services for Chicagoans. It represents hope that fewer mothers will bury their children, fewer doctors will become gunshot wound experts, and fewer community members will suffer the trauma of gun violence. It’s an honor to have played a part in this initiative, and I look forward to witnessing all of the life-saving work MFS will continue to do for our community.”
As remarks wrapped and the ribbon was cut, guests flooded into the new space to enjoy food, drinks, and a tour of the facility. The MPA features three training spaces, an office area and conference rooms for MPI and CP4P staff members, a cafe and lounge area, peace room, media and editing studio, gym, and more. The space also include two murals created by muralist Mauricio Ramirez.
The facility is funded in part by the Illinois Department of Human Services, the U.S. Department of Justice, PSPC, and other donors. This expansion was created in the wake of the MPA’s continued growth, increase in participants and staff, and CVI’s increasing effectiveness as a model for public safety in Chicago.
“The MPA has helped to shine a light on the value add of the men and women who do the work, the boots on the ground who work tirelessly in our communities as superheroes without capes to prevent the next shooting,” said Dr. Perry-DeReef.
“Coupled with learning about the work, the MPA provides a safe space for cohort members to unpack their traumas and develop a support network, leaving them renewed, restored, and resilient.”