During a press conference at the University of Lynchburg on April 25, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced new measures in the state’s Operation Ceasefire initiative to curb gun violence.
Lynchburg, one of 12 cities in Virginia receiving funding, has been awarded $300,000 in grants, including $50,000 to support collaborative work between the University’s Good Gangs program and Beacon of Hope, the Jubilee Family Center, Iron Lives, and Peacemakers.
“As one recipient of the Ceasefire grant funding and an institution of higher education, the University recognizes the importance of this initiative,” Provost Dr. Allison Jablonski said at the press conference.
“Using these funds, our Center for Leadership [and its partners] will create a collective impact model. I’m confident that together, we can make a positive impact in our community.”
Good Gangs is led by Dr. Owen Cardwell, a pastor at Diamond Hill Baptist Church in Lynchburg. Cardwell also is the University’s Rosel Schewel Distinguished Professor of Education and Human Development and co-director of the Center for Leadership.
He said the grant is an extension of the work he’s been doing with Lynchburg City Schools and the Lynchburg Police Department at the Empowerment Academy, which currently serves 29 students. The four nonprofits Good Gangs is partnering with serve about 500 high school students total.
“Many people have written off students at the Empowerment Academy with the label of ‘alternative education,’” Cardwell said. “With Good Gangs, we’re not trying to fix ‘broken kids.’
“We’re helping them discover their talents and encouraging them to develop them into strengths, and to utilize the assets that are available to them.”
He added that “young people want to belong, as part of their development. Unfortunately, that’s the attraction of gangs. So we emphasize that there is nothing wrong with gangs — the key is the motivation.”
Good Gangs, which is associated with the University’s Lynchburg Tomorrow initiative, launched in August 2022 with two grants: a $150,000 Virginia Community-Based Gun Violence Intervention Grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and $66,000 from the Teen and Police Service, or TAPS, Academy.
Cardwell said the increase in funding and using a collective impact model will “get more partners using the same metrics to measure more effective outcomes.”