Dallas County Reform Work

Change Your Perception Initiative (CYPI) Travel Program

Since the Perception Equals Potential (P.E.P.) Initiative first launched in 2020, Leon Theodore and TCJE’s Dallas County team have worked with students and schools to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Their work in the education system has highlighted persistent divides, inequities, and disparities, particularly those experienced by BIPOC scholars and specifically Black scholars. Additionally, this school-based work has underlined the lack of restorative justice programming in many education systems, perpetuating the school-to-prison nexus. 

With these realities at the forefront, the Change Your Perception Initiative (CYPI) travel program launched in 2024. Grounded in the belief that changing the perspective of one individual can change the trajectory of an entire family and community, CYPI aims to make civic engagement, restorative leadership, and cultural competence a tangible experience for BIPOC scholars, specifically Black scholars. By taking youth “Ambassadors” to other countries, the program allows them to experience various cultures and learn how they “fit in" to a global society, ultimately giving them agency, increased mindfulness, and empowerment that they will carry back to their communities. 

2024 TRAVEL PROGRAM: This year, CYPI plans to initiate their first group of Ambassadors (many who’ve never left the United States), made up of Black and brown scholars ages 16-17 from South and West Dallas communities. In June, the Ambassadors will be introduced to the program through four courses: 

  • National-Cultural Awareness 

  • Community Building and Empowerment 

  • Civic Engagement 

  • Restorative Leadership 

In August and September, the Ambassadors will travel to Stuttgart, Germany, to participate in SCORA 24, a week-long summit with 400 youth from other countries focused on efforts to end racism and antisemitism. The summit ends with a learning capstone presentation launch to be designed by the Ambassadors themselves. 

After returning to the U.S., Ambassadors will present their capstone projects at their schools or in their local communities, and CYPI will kick off a yearlong in-school-time companion program

In future years, CYPI plans to expand its model to include additional programming, more schools, and peer-created content.

A collage of students and program leaders in schools


COMPANION SCHOOL PROGRAMMING: During the 2024-2025 school year, CYPI will partner with the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy (BOMLA) at A. Maceo Smith, working with their Social Studies, World Language, and Language Arts Programs. The companion program will deepen CYPI’s summer programming, and offerings will align with program-specific Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS),* such as responsibility, caring, and good citizenship. CYPI programming is designed to deepen understanding of global issues and equip our Ambassadors to become global citizens able to identify, inform, and implement change. 

* TEKS alignments are specific to Social Studies, World Language and Language Arts: Culture, Government, Developing and Sustaining foundational language skills, Responsibility, Caring and Good Citizenship.