Miami-based nonprofit Gang Alternative received $1.7 million to conduct a four-year study on reducing the impact and prevalence of violence among racial and ethnic minorities with an award from the Health and Human Services Department, Office of Minority Health. Researchers at Florida International University (FIU) Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work will conduct a thorough evaluation of this program.
Dr. Michelle Hospital, associate director of FIU-Banyan Research Institute on Dissemination, Grants, & Evaluation (BRIDGE) and research associate professor, will serve as principal investigator of the evaluation team, alongside FIU-BRIDGE colleagues and co-investigators Dr. Eric F. Wagner, director; professor in the School of Social Work, and Dr. Staci Morris, clinical director; research assistant professor.
Gang Alternative dedicated and named the project Minority Violence Prevention Project 88 (MVP 88) as a homage to the 88 teenagers killed by gun violence in Miami since 2014.
MVP 88 is active in the communities of Little Haiti, Liberty City, Pinewood, Westgate, Westview and Biscayne Park and places a specific focus on minority youth attending Miami Edison Senior High School and Miami Northwestern Senior High School.
“It is a great privilege for us to collaborate with local organizations like Gang Alternative, as they provide our community with culturally relevant resources that are recognized for their significance and impact,” said Dr. Tomás R. Guilarte, dean of Stempel College.
The project will deliver innovative methods proven to reduce violence, aggression and substance abuse/use among teens. These include the evidence-based practices of Aggression Replacement Training® (ART), Botvin Lifeskills for substance abuse prevention and the CRAMS Model for college readiness.
Gang Alternative became a nonprofit in 2005 after two decades of volunteer and faith-based ministry within Little Haiti. Since then, the organization has expanded to serve the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Miami and has seen a 94 percent success rate with their teen participants who show a decrease in aggressive behaviors and an increase in awareness of drug/alcohol prevention.
In addition to Dr. Hospital’s evaluation team, Dr. Donnie Hale, director of FIU’s The Education Effect, is collaborating with Gang Alternative to assist with the implementation of its programming. FIU’s The Education Effect bridges the opportunity and skill gap by increasing academic achievement and educational outcomes for schools in Gang Alternative’s territory — Little Haiti, Liberty City and Overtown — and has done so since 2011.
“Grassroots programs have excellent potential to impact youth in creative and enriching ways. As a Miami native, I am thrilled at the opportunity to leverage FIU’s resources and work together for the betterment of our communities,” said Dr. Hospital.