Migel (aka Migos) remembers his first experience with gun violence as an elementary school child. He recalls, “I was in fifth grade, coming out of my school, and they started shooting on the block where we all were. Out of nowhere the gunshots was just flying and it was dark out so you saw the light from the gun. It’s crazy because the person shooting was directly across the street from us…I was terrified. I never saw who was shooting or who was shot. Everybody just ran so I ran away too.” Years later as a high school junior, Migos became involved with the Mediation Center when he joined Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.). In his time with YO S.O.S., Migos was able to connect with Urban Word poets to write anti-violence poetry and he appeared on a BRIC television broadcast in which he shared his work. Migos explained that he especially appreciates the way he feels at the Mediation Center. He said, “I get to express myself in ways that I normally don’t get to in other environments. Here is a safe space. It’s a lot of positive stuff going on, so no matter what I do, it’s still in some way helping the community. That’s why I keep coming back. It’s just a lot of fun. I can be myself and I don’t get to do that really, everywhere I go.”

After graduating from the YO S.O.S. 2016 cohort, Migos was hired as a Youth Facilitator. He is now in his second year in this role and is also working as Youth Programs support staff at the 256 Kingston office. Migos sees his role as a Youth Facilitator as a role model to young people who have had similar experiences. Being a youth facilitator is great. I feel like I now have both sides of the coin – I came in at first as a participant and then I got hired so now I am on the staff side, more observant of what is going on, so it has been a good learning experience. As someone just a few years older then the YO S.O.S. members, they probably think in their head, ‘oh that could be me one day.’ In that way, I’m able to be a motivation to them.” His advice to the youth is to “Not let anything hold you back or keep you down.”

Over the course of November, we’ll be using this space to highlight the stories of the Crown Heights Mediation Center staff, interns, volunteers, participants, and community members. If you’d like to share your story, please email info@crownheights.org or reach out to us on any of our social media platforms. If these stories inspire you to support our work, please visit our website, http://crownheights.org/give/, to join us.