Ending the cycle of violence

Gun violence is a national epidemic. The African American Culture and Contemporary Issues (AACCI) classes are part of TAP’s answer to curbing the issue locally.

Changing Dropout Rates and More

Started in 2008, the class originally aimed to reduce Black male dropout rates at William Fleming High School. This fall, it launched an open-to-the-public initiative. Based on the Fleming curriculum, this Saturday program is available to anyone age 15 or older. Both programs follow the school year calendar. Part African American history, part empowerment strategies, part holistic health, AACCI is changing lives.

“This program is catered toward building your self-worth, empowering you to be a leader, as well as knowing when you need to follow,” says Lateefah Trent, youth services and education manager at TAP. “It’s learning how to not only think of yourself when you’re in a situation, but those around you in your communities and your home; leading by example.”  

A Holistic Approach

In 2020, Antonio Stovall was tapped to manage this legacy program. He began revamping the curriculum after he was hired. Antonio integrated holistic approaches born from a tragic personal experience. “The man who my mother was in a relationship with, who she had just broken up with, had taken her life,” says Antonio. “After it happened, I could go on the path of self-destruction or [the] path of bettering myself. Reading more, working out more, eating better, studying any type of information about holistic wellness, healing, nutrition. I learned from lots of people from around the country, went to Egypt, and started teaching mindfulness, yoga, and martial arts in the community.”

With his experience, alternative education research, and natural talent for fostering relationships, Antonio created a class structure that works. “What we’re noticing is since the pandemic everything has changed. How students learn, how teachers need to teach,” he says. “This program could be a model for what is needed to rebuild that class and the environment when it comes to learning.”

Impacting Generations

The benefits of AACCI didn’t stop with high school students. “Eventually, it started having an impact on the parents as well because they started to see a difference in how their child was acting,” says Antonio. Soon, adults were asking about the class, and TAP’s “Whole Family” focus made open Saturday classes a natural next step. “The conversations are a lot more diverse. You have different age groups that are part of the class. That just makes the class a lot more interesting because of all the different perspectives,” says Antonio.

“I think one of the biggest reasons why Antonio’s approach works above and beyond the method is because he approaches every individual as an individual,” says Lateefah. “He doesn’t come off as the head honcho in the room. He believes in equality for all and that everyone has a voice.”

The class has made an invaluable impact on the community­—AACCI participants have left gangs, learned to appreciate school, and ended suicide plans. “This was created for our most at risk youth, but what we discovered is everyone needs it,” says Lateefah. “The more you recognize yourself, the more power you have over dealing with things.”

See You on Saturday!

We invite anyone age 15 or older to join us for this FREE class every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. until June at the Roanoke Higher Education Center. To register, please contact Lateefah.trent@nulltapintohope.org.