At the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, there are many young people helping today’s youth stay on the right path.

Inside Rochester’s School #19, Yahoda Miller, or “Hoody” as everyone calls him, is teaching peace.

Hoody is a school mediator. Kids are sent to his room to talk out their problems. He helps them calm down and come up with a better way to communicate – then they go back to class. 

“You see a lot of ‘old you’ in the students,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, I wish they had a help zone for me growing up.’”

Hoody has a way of connecting with the kids. Maybe it’s because not long ago, he was a lot like them.  He grew up on Plymouth Avenue, the same neighborhood he’s working in now. 

“As a child growing up, I’ve seen a lot of violence here,” Hoody said. “And that violence changed just from the elders telling us, as the next generation coming up, watching the violence, ‘Do better, you know better.’”

He stumbled upon the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence back in 2012.  He began volunteering, and two years ago, became a part of the staff as a youth educator and garden manager.

What’s ironic for Hoody is that he grew up right next door to the Institute’s house-turned-headquarters, but as a child was told to stay away from it because it was abandoned and dangerous.

“It used to be a rundown house, for like drug transactions,” he said. “And they told me, living next door, ‘Hoody, you stay out of that yard, stay out of that house,’ and now look at me.”

He’s not only helping kids here – he also tends the garden. He thinks having access to fresh, healthy food is one way to help heal the neighborhood’s battle wounds

“I love it, I think so,” said Hoody. “I do. It’s good work. Makes you feel great inside.”

And the kids think he’s pretty great too. 

The Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence is a non-profit and has youth educators in five city schools. They also offer training, and work on projects that look for peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.