Strengthening Lives and Communities Through Alternatives to Violence

26 July 2017

Osborne's mentoring program participants recently went on a retreat to upstate New York for a weekend of community building through Alternatives to Violence (AVP) workshops. Osborne Lead Mentor T Haywood first discovered the Alternatives to Violence Project while incarcerated and now leads workshops and trains mentoring participants to be AVP facilitators. Program participants, Sierra Williams and Tayvon Williams, share in their own words what they learned from the retreat. 

Mentoring participants and blog authors Sierra and Tayvon


The Arches program at the Osborne Association is a group transformative mentoring program that supports justice-involved young adults to transform their mindsets and behaviors. A group of Arches participants recently attended a weekend retreat at the Warwick Conference Center in Warwick, New York to learn from and participate in Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops. The Alternatives to Violence Project is a conflict transformation program where facilitators conduct experiential workshops to develop participants’ abilities to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence. AVP and Arches are both transformative programs led by mentors and facilitators who utilize their own experiences to guide participants in transforming their lives and communities. Over the weekend, we spent hours learning communication skills, community building, cooperation, team work, and open-mindedness.

The opportunity to get out of our comfort zone of New York City was exciting as well as suspenseful. Many of us would not have had the chance to get out of our neighborhoods and gain this new experience if it were not for the Arches program. Seeing ourselves out of our normal environment helped us realize how our actions and attitudes in the city are obsolete in a suburban setting. The awkward, but yet peaceful, silences at night, seeing the stars in the night sky, the positive attitudes, no “rush hours”, and the smiles met with “good morning!” when we woke up were all a good change of pace from our lives back in the city. It was important for us to go out of town to learn new skills and ways of living that we can take back to our neighborhoods and apply to our lives. 

Although we were in a new town for 3 days, it was challenging to reset the actions and attitudes embedded in us from years of city habits. These challenges led to conflicts arising between a few group members during the retreat. But these conflicts are exactly why we went on the retreat and were the perfect opportunity to apply our Alternatives to Violence training. Group members took initiative to work together to resolve the conflicts, regularly conversing with and supporting those involved in the conflicts. It worked and improved the quality of our retreat and our relationships. It made growth, team work, adaptability, and alternatives to violence feel possible. Learning AVP at the Warwick Conference Center was an evolving as well as memorable experience for us all. Thank you to the Osborne Association staff who led the workshops and continually empower us to make better decisions.

For more information about the Arches program, contact Mia Legapsi-Cavin at or 718-707-2723.