project leader
Jeremiah M
1900 Jackson Bluff Rd
(All neighborhoods)
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Phase 2: Expanding Our Reach

the project

Tallahassee has a crime problem rooted in trauma; we have the highest crime rate in Florida (4,450 incidents per 100,000 people).  At the same time, we are a source of hope; we have an innovative and award-winning restorative justice program for teens called Community Connections.  We are forming a nonprofit called Connection First, Inc., and we have a bold plan to introduce the restorative practices of Community Connections into Leon County Schools. This expansion will dramatically reduce crime, transform justice, and increase connection in our community.  Help us stop the cycle of trauma; help us restore hope and make Tallahassee an innovative leader in restorative justice.

Incarcerating our kids is expensive and ineffective.  Incarceration costs, $150,000 per year per youth, and the recidivism rate nationwide is 70 to 80%.  If we continue with the same strategies for justice, then we will continue to fail our communities...we will continue to fail our youth.

There is another way.  Community Connections is a restorative justice program that teaches us empathy and conflict resolution through a process called Nonviolent Communication (NVC).  The recidivism rate of Community Connections graduates is only 12%. In fact, the program is so impactful that more than 30% of the graduates return to volunteer.  More would love to return but are unable due to the realities of poverty. Not only is Community Connections much more effective than incarceration, it also costs a lot less; it costs only $4,000 per teen for a 14-week program.  That is far less expensive than $150,000 per teen per year. Compared to incarceration, the restorative justice practices of Community Connections are nearly 10 times more effective and at least 30 times less expensive.

It is time to stop the cycle of violence in our community.  We have an effective and economical solution right in our back yard.  Join us in our mission to introduce nonviolent communication and restorative practices into Leon County Schools.  When we work together, we can reduce crime, transform justice, and increase connection in our community.

the steps

  • We will increase the workforce in Tallahassee that teaches nonviolent communication and restorative practices.  

  • We will start a pilot program in one of the schools serving the most traumatized youth.  This will double the number of youth cases that receive nonviolent communication training in Tallahassee. The funds raised in this campaign will pay for this increase in workforce and their training.

  • Duties within the schools:

    • Provide Nonviolent Communication classes: these classes (circles) will include youth, teachers, and community volunteers

    • Train teachers and staff in restorative practices

    • Provide one-on-one case management to youth

    • Conduct restorative circles to address harm and nonviolent communication mediations when necessary.

  • Measurable outcomes: reduction in arrests, reduction in suspension, reduction in expulsion, increase in teacher satisfaction, reduction in disproportionate minority contact, reduce the school-to-prison pipeline, increase awareness and skill in trauma responsiveness.

why we're doing it

Why is Community Connections so effective?  Brain research shows that when you’ve had trauma,  especially sustained trauma, the part of your brain that is designed to determine safety and threat is over-engaged.  Under these circumstances, we are often quick to respond with either fight, flight, or freeze. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) determined that at least two-thirds  of us have experienced trauma in our lives, which is why we see fight, flight, or freeze responses everywhere.

According to Marshall Rosenberg, developer of Nonviolent Communication, every conflict is the tragic expression of an unmet need.  The solution is to understand our feelings and needs, understand others’ feelings and needs, and develop healthy ways to communicate.  In Community Connections, we learn to recognize the feelings that we have in the moment, the unmet needs that give rise to those feelings, and how to hear one another.   In short, we learn to slow down and use our higher-level brains to circumvent tragic conflicts.  This technique has a measurable and transformative impact on both the teens and the volunteers.  

For this innovative approach to restorative justice, Dr. Cindy Bigbie, Director of Community Connections, received the Dennis Maloney Award for Youth-Based Community and Restorative Justice from the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRJ) at the 2019 conference attended by 1700+ people across the country.

It’s not the sole responsibility of our police, elected officials, or the staff at Community Connections to maintain safety and keep the peace.  It is the responsibility of us all. How can you help improve safety, healing, and connection in our community?  Help us increase conflict resolution, restorative justice, and connection in our community; help us make Tallahassee a national leader in reducing crime.

Here’s our plan.  We want our entire community to experience the effectiveness of nonviolent communication and restorative practices; we will start with the youth and faculty within our schools.  Remember, it costs $150,000 per year to incarcerate a youth...and there’s a 70% chance that this strategy will not stop the cycle of trauma and violence.  It costs only $4,000 to send one teen through a 14-week cycle in Community Connections...and it will change their lives and stop the cycle of trauma and violence.  Currently, Community Connections changes the lives of about 50 teens per year. Our goal is to expand this to hundreds of youth per year. In particular, we plan to teach our youth empathy and conflict resolution skills in Leon County Public Schools before the trauma escalates out of control.  

To ensure that this plan succeeds, we are rolling it out with purpose and care.  First, we will start a two-year pilot program in one school. Once we introduce nonviolent communication and restorative practices to this school, we’ll expand into other schools, one at a time.  The initial list of schools include Success Academy and Fairview Middle School. The initial cost for this pilot program is $80,000 per year. We ask that you help us raise funds for one year, and we'll ask the schools to match this community support to ensure a second year for this pilot program.  Help us stop the cycle of violence, and help us make Tallahassee an innovative leader in restorative justice. Your donation will help us fund this pilot program, and it will send a strong message of community support, so please donate whatever you can.  If you are feeling particularly generous and inspired, consider sponsoring one teen for $4,000. It will change his or her life forever.




To train teachers, administrators, and students in nonviolent communication we will be contracting Dr. Cindy Bigbie and other contractors.  They will be implementing the BigbieMethod, and the cost of this training is $20,000 per semester.  $30,000 will cover the training for 1.5 semesters at one Middle School.

TOTAL RAISED = $31,253.00
ioby Platform Fee $35.00
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $936.54


It costs only $4,000 to send one teen through a 14-week class in nonviolent communication...and it will change their lives and stop the cycle of trauma and violence.
The initial cost for this pilot program is $80,000 which will pay for additional staff and their training.

ioby Platform Fee $35
ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $4,350
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $2,610
TOTAL TO RAISE = $86,995


Phase 2: Expanding Our Reach

Hi Friends!

We have a small but tireless team of volunteers working to ensure that Connection First, Inc. becomes a reality. We appreciate the many ways that our supporters have kept the fire ignited throughout the first phase of this campaign. So please allow us to start by extending a heartfelt thank you to our donors, our volunteers, and everyone who has shouted out this program! We’ve come this far with your help, and your enthusiasm will help us drive this project home.

As we look toward the future of Connections First, Inc. we must get the community involved on a large scale. We’re seeing an encouraging response to local events aimed at solving the crime problem in Tallahassee. With this in mind, we’ve begun to reach out to local organizations and groups for support.

Our first big initiative is a Pass the Plate for Peace event where local churches can engage in some fun competition as they give in support of community healing. Make sure that your church is on the list!

How can I help?

There are a variety of ways to get involved!

  • Share this fundraiser at work, with friends, and at church.
  • Share about Connection First, along with the IOBY link on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
  • Does your company or group sponsor local nonprofits? Let them know about us!
  • Do you have a particular skill that might help us as we continue to fundraise? Graphic design, public speaking, videography, and fundraising expertise are wanted!

Stay tuned as we roll out more exciting developments like our new website, coming soon!


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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