ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — More than a dozen young men’s lives in Rochester may have just been saved from being caught up in Gun Violence after they graduated from the Advance-Peace Peacemaker Fellowship Program.

This was the first graduating class to complete this program through the City of Rochester and now that these young men are finished, the city hopes they’ll take what they learned from the Violence Prevention Department and apply it in their own communities to resist resorting to guns to solve disputes. 

When Cartiey Martin was caught up in a shooting last year and hospitalized, he became motivated to bring peace back to his life. So, his friends recommended he join the Peacemaker Fellowship program. 

“The last thing I wanted to do was advance peace in my situation so getting into the program saved my life,” Graduate of Peacemaker Fellowship Program Cartiey Martin. “It’s really what I needed and gave me another alternative besides just having issues.”

Over the last several months, Neighborhood Change Agents through the city’s violence prevention program showed the class conflict resolution training by counseling them to focus on employment opportunities, managing money and healthcare services instead of needing guns to resolve their issues. 

“The help is there but if you don’t want to change then it’s pointless,” Martin said. “It gave me everything I needed to transition like shelter and it’s a lot with how much time you have.”

“They were able to really pick a part all those different situations and understand the need for us as a people to be able to be more cohesive, understanding, show empathy for one another in order for those situations to not exist in their neighborhoods,” Victor Saunders of the City of Rochester Violence Prevention Program said.

The Advance-Peace Peacemaker Fellowship Program is in a pilot phase with another class in motion that will be completed this year. Mayor Malik Evans hopes progress will be shown by the graduates when they go home so there are others who may learn how to stop gun violence. 

“I think that it’s a good opportunity for us to be proactive because by the time somebody is shot and killed, that’s too late,” Evans said. “By the time the medical examiner comes and takes the body away that’s too late. We want to continue to try to support proactive programs that are violence interruption programs and that’s what this advance peace program is.”

Over the course of this program, one of the students lost his life in a shooting but he was still honored at the ceremony with his mother receiving a medal and flowers.

To continue the program, Mayor Evans says they’ll need to re-evaluate budgets after the next program finishes.