AVP WORKS!!

Santa Barbara Unified School District is tracking students who take AVP workshops;

Total # of Students completing Basic workshops = 131   Current Grade levels = 7-12

 Students referred by Assistant Principals at all nine Middle and High schools, who complete the Basic workshop receive not only 20 hours of community service, but have their suspension removed from their record and indication that they have graduated from an AVP workshop.

All workshop teams include youth trained to facilitate workshop as well as a couple of adults.


University of California Santa Barbara is in the middle of a study of youth workshop participant attitudes. Available in 2021. AVP is a “million-hour baby” for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  

Over 1 million hours have been spent by  CDCR Inmates in AVP workshops over the past 20 years.

AVP/California  has been consistently invited by wardens and inmates to offer monthly  workshops in an increasing number of  prisons. Now in 25, plus 6 Fire Camps.

Parole boards recommend inmates take AVP workshops before they come to their next board hearing.  

ARC (Anti- Recidivism Coalition) founder Scott Budnick attests to the success of the AVP experience in  those parolees who have taken an AVP workshop are the most successful.

Research on Anger/Recidivism  reduction by AVP Project workshops:

A recent study in a Minnesota prison has provided objective evidence of AVP effectiveness. Researchers measured the effects of AVP on reducing an individual’s tendency to become angry.                                

After experiencing only the Basic 20-hour  workshop, participants’ predisposition to anger was significantly reduced. After experiencing the advanced workshop and training for facilitators, the impact was even greater. The average  score decreased from about 20 to a score of 15, a 25% reduction.  This dramatic reduction in tendency to get angry continued to the two-year follow-up   assessment.  This suggests AVP is an effective method for reducing anger.                                                               

These results are consistent with other studies that showed AVP reduced inmate behavior write-ups by 60% and recidivism by 46% [three years after release, only 13.5% committed a new felony.

This 45-year-old program is operating in 45 countries successfully reducing conflict in local communities and is repeatedly sought after by more communities and prisons.

As students have (often begrudgingly) attended AVP workshops, they regularly report that they very much liked the workshops and enjoyed their weekend with the group.  Some of the students have continued on to additional workshops, and many more say that they want to continue on and will work further with JP.  Students have been great ambassadors to others as well saying that they will like it if they go. ~ Dean of Student Engagement, James Bedard, La Cuesta Continuation School and Alta Vista Alternative High Schools, SBUnified School District

Research and Accolades:

What does the Santa Barbara Unified School District think of AVP? A portion from a letter of commendation from the SBUSD

“I have been working closely with AVP since 2017 as both a High School Dean of Student Engagement and in my capacity currently as the district Coordinator of School Climate and Safety. In the time that I have been working with AVP, Pat Hardy and J.P. Herrada have demonstrated professionalism and dedication to meeting the needs of our students and their families.” To read the full letter << CLICK HERE >>

Why we are offering the AVP Experience to at-risk youth? Almost every time we are in a workshop in prison, inmates lament:

“I wish I’d had this workshop before I caught my crime. I wouldn’t be here now.”

Check out these comments by youth and adults who have taken an AVP workshop.Teens speak in their own words:

I learned in the AVP Experience… “that I can change” “I will think more about how my choices effect those around me.” “Need to be better at listening” “We can all relate to how violence affects us.” “Like to smile.” “I learned how to trust others during this workshop” “Being patient, aware and respectful will get me far in life” “It will make me more aware.” “Put yourself in others shoes” “It will prevent us from getting in fight.” “everyone’s different”

Adults in workshops with youth:

“The most valuable aspects of this experience were being able to share in an open safe place. To go through this process with juveniles who are in a pivotal moment in their lives. Seeing them connect the dots, that just because of something they did; doesn’t mean that’s who they are. Being able to connect with others on an honest level.”

“Conflict is part of the human emotions spectrum – it will rise, but I learned new ways on how to resolve it.”

A testimonial from a UCSB intern

“As I looked out of the car window and watched the streets pass me by I remembered how much I learned here. I remember learning how to watch after myself, how to watch after my littler brothers and sisters, and how to look after my mom. I remember being a kid and how whenever we got the chance to buy baseball l cards I would turn around and sell them back to people at my school to make a quick profit. I remember bothering other people’s dads and uncles who would sell elote to see if there was any way I could help. I would help push carts or I would stand on the corner yelling out prices. Once, I was in the truck we moved the elote material in when my friend’s uncle got pulled over without a license. They towed the truck, but not before we got everything out and carried it with us half a dozen miles to the corner we used to sell elote on. I was only 7 or 8 at that time. What was clear to me was that at a very early age I was trying to get a paycheck to help my family in any way I could.

Paychecks might not be the right word for these situations, especially considering all of this was under the table. Yet, what was evident was that the kids in my situation had no choice but to work. Some of us had to resort to drastic measures, often dangerous measures. As we grew up, the options for work broadened. Some options made more money than others. Unfortunately for us, drugs became more prevalent as a way to turn one dollar into ten. I wish I knew at the time, but this would become the gateway for me to get jumped into a gang. For years I would hustle drugs from one block to another, for years I would encourage other kids my age to do the same. We were too young to get hired by businesses, and though everyone told us to stay in school, it seemed like all the teachers hated us and in turn we began to hate them just as much. We were confused, but what wasn’t confusing was seeing the money math add up as one sale turned into dozens.

Around the age of 13, I was getting confident, some would say cocky. I was out in the open and got a little sloppy on being sly with my sales. Put simply, since I was getting weak on being low-key, I got caught up. I was trying to get pills to a homie during class, but the gossip spread quickly. Before I knew it I was getting chewed out by school teachers and principals and was told I was getting expelled. They would tell me one of the ways I could start getting back to school was to take a workshop through the Alternatives to Violence Project.

Without taking these workshops I would probably be sitting on the same corners making the same dangerous decisions. Dangerous not just to myself, but to my family. I was trying to protect them, but how could I do that from a jail or prison cell? Workshop after workshop I started to realize that there are other ways to make money. The Alternatives to Violence Project gave me community service hours, got me connected with tutors and positive role models, got me started on an application washing dishes at a local restaurant, but more importantly, I learned how to take care of myself and my family in a nonviolent way. I was not relying on my gang to get me opportunities to make money, instead I was looking for respectable ways to be employed and make an income. The risk of slanging drugs had a high reward, but not high enough to leave my family to fend for themselves. I just needed some people to be there with me to wake me up to that reality.”

Eric Saúl Nava is a graduating senior at the University of California Santa Barbara. Currently an intern and a new facilitator for Santa Barbara’s Alternatives to Violence Project. Born in L.A. and raised in the San Bernardino mountains, Eric has seen and been a part of violence in two of California’s largest counties. He has used this internship to write about these topics to highlight the importance of organizations like the Alternatives to Violence Project as they promote non- violent solutions and bring communities together to find answers for their social and personal problems.

Another testimonial from a UCSB intern

I had such a hands-on and informative experience interning with the Santa Barbara Alternatives to Violence Project (SBAVP)! Some of the highlights of my experience were taking the AVP Basic workshop and working with my team. The workshop was an immersive experience; it allowed me to really engage with what SBAVP does and learn more about methods for creating change. The workshop was also integral to developing a deeper understanding of the effects that violence can have on our lives and how to build community and better understand myself! Working with this team was amazing, because everyone was a team player and had an amazing attitude and great ideas that they brought to the table. It was great collaborating with them and supporting one another throughout the quarter.

Through this internship, I learned that social justice definitely calls for playing the long game in order to create true, long-lasting change. I saw how violence, a lack of resources (exacerbated by the pandemic), and financial stressors disproportionately affect people of color, particularly the Latinx community in Santa Barbara. Continual, long-term efforts are necessary in order to help empower these families and communities, as many of the families that SBAVP works with have had a number of stressors in their lives and needed outlets for their children, academic resources, mental health resources, and overall support. I also learned about the collaborative nature of social justice work through SBAVP collaboration with other organizations in the community, such as Freedom 4 Youth, in order to connect students and families to resources.

While I had already decided prior to this internship experience that I had an interest in nonprofit work as a future career path, this internship has allowed me to get hands-on experience in doing nonprofit work and understand how a nonprofit organization works behind the scenes, and more. Through this internship, I have been able to gain a bit more experience in nonprofit work and will continue to use that knowledge to narrow down what sort of organization I would like to work at/partner with in the future in order to create change.

Overall, I would definitely recommend that other students intern with the Santa Barbara Alternatives to Violence Project in the future! SBAVP has a kind and wonderful team that is passionate about what they do, and I believe wholeheartedly in SBAVP’s goal to build community and decrease violence through conflict resolution workshops, mentorship, community engagement, and more. The workshops alone are amazing, and I would recommend that anyone take them as well! The advice that I would give to a future SBAVP intern is 1. Stay organized and find a structure that works for you, 2. Create a schedule to keep yourself on track, 3. Communication is key (ask questions and always feel free to get help when you need it), and 4. Use this internship as an opportunity to pursue the area of focus that you are passionate about!

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