Last year, when the Johns Hopkins Black Faculty and Staff Association was exploring a project it could undertake to help curb violence in Baltimore City, Jerrell Bratcher stepped up to help find a solution.
“I enjoy informing, educating and empowering youth about how to interact with peers, police and other authority figures such as teachers, principals and adults,” says Bratcher, who works in Johns Hopkins Development and Alumni Relations as an administrative coordinator for the Office of Principal Gifts.
Insisting that the program be long-term and impactful, Bratcher researched various organizations that were tackling youth violence prevention, talked to dozens of faith-based and community leaders, and called on his 10 years of leadership experience with charter schools, community schools and K-12 public education. In the summer of 2017, he launched the Baltimore Youth De-Escalation and Juvenile Justice Initiative, a volunteer project that brings youth, police officers and others together in an effort to forge positive relationships and interactions. He collaborates with the nonprofit Strategies for Youth.
Bratcher facilitates the discussions and role-playing sessions, and also provides strategies for conflict de-escalation, as well as character and leadership development. He uses an interactive Juvenile Justice Jeopardy game as a tool to help people understand the law and how the juvenile justice system works. Bratcher conducts the presentations in various settings, such as schools, community centers and even detention centers.
To date, more than 300 youth and 200 adults have participated in the program, and he’s trained more than 60 facilitators to lead the workshop presentations. Humanim, a nonprofit human services organization, has begun to use these tools in its programs as well.
The initiative has caught the attention of government agencies, judges, and nonprofits around the country. With the backing of the university, through a Diversity Innovation Grant from DLC and supported by the Office Government and Community Affairs, Bratcher is looking to expand the program to other jurisdictions, train more Johns Hopkins faculty, staff, and students, and cultivate more youth leaders from the community