How one inspiring Woodlawn High School grad is building peace in Birmingham

Woodlawn High School,
Meet Steven Crenshaw. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Over 150 local high school students spent their school year in an award-winning program that equips students to build peace in their communities, countries and the world. We met with Woodlawn graduate Steven Crenshaw to learn more about his experience, the local projects he is a part of and more.

Creating leaders in Birmingham

Screen Shot 2023 08 07 at 10.21.01 AM How one inspiring Woodlawn High School grad is building peace in Birmingham
Taking action! (Youth & Peace in Action)

NewGen Peacebuilders is a global education program that partners with Youth & Peace in Action (YPA) to train and teach students to “Build Peace and Repeat the Peace” in their communities and beyond. All seven Birmingham City high schools undertook a year-long journey to give students the opportunity to receive their certification.

Fun fact: Even though 8,000 young people have been certified around the world, Birmingham is the first city to complete a year-long program across all public high schools.

Steven Crenshaw, one of 150 newly certified NewGen Peacebuilders in Birmingham, loved every minute of the process and even landed a role as a YPA community outreach coordinator this summer.

“My favorite part of this journey has been going to speak to different organizations and actually presenting our mission to them. I’ve learned a lot about how to properly run an organization, how to be a good leader and how to have different perspectives and views.”

Steven Crenshaw

So, what does it mean to be a peace builder?

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Mayor Woodfin with NewGen Peacebuilders. (Youth & Peace in Action)

Certified NewGen Peacebuilders are trained to:

  • Truly understand drivers of conflict and peace
  • Imagine innovative solutions that create change
  • Take positive actions to address issues affecting their communities  
  • Build bridges for the rest of their lives

Their mission: Make learning to a be a peace builder a rite of passage for everyone.

“I think it’s important for programs like this to be part of a high school curriculum. Learning conflict resolution, learning ways to prevent violence in the community and just giving students a different perspective is something that would be very beneficial to high school students.”

Steven Crenshaw

A look into their training + projects they’ve worked on

Youth & Peace in Action
Students mapped out core issues in their area. (Steven Crenshaw)

One of the things I found most interesting about their training process was these core issues maps that each school’s team created to find common issues and scenarios in their area.

Teams of 5-8 people started with a blank map representing the area that their school is zoned for. From there, they used post-its, images, clips from news stories, data and personal observations to map out the issues they found to be most present.

From 30 maps, they came up with 11 core issues, including:

  • Trauma + mental health
  • Need for green (working to turn overgrown lots to parks)
  • School safety
  • Safety/security for women + children of color
  • Dangerous stray dogs running wild in streets

They split into teams dedicated to specific issues, spent their time researching ways to combat those and presented them to various organizations within the city.

This is just the beginning for Steven

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Steven showed us his favorite spots in Woodlawn High School. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

As we walked through the halls of Steven’s alma mater, at least three faculty members stopped us to say things like “You’re walking with the future president of the United States” or “Just wait until he’s the mayor.”

It is clear that Steven has a bright future ahead, with many more peace projects to come.

“I’m starting college at Miles College this month. I plan to double major in political science and basic law, with hopes of running for office one day or starting my own social enterprise focusing on similar core issues like we’ve done through this program.”

Steven Crenshaw

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Callie Puryear
Callie Puryear
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