By Tim Nation – PLC Executive Director and Co-Founder
“Many people come to our school and give presentations on bullying, but really all of them fail to scratch the surface of the problems. They all have the same talk, ‘Bullying is not ok, bullying hurts, bullying is bad.’ It’s like a broken record. It’s because they aren’t like you, they are afraid to talk about the real world, they sugarcoat stories of pain and suffering, and they only pluck the leaves of the bullying tree. Without people like you and the Peace Learning Center, the leaves would continue to grow back fuller and stronger every year.”
I took this from a letter written by an 8th grader who participated in one of our PLC workshops. A stack of forty letters with similar sentiments from other students touched me deeply because they understood what Peace Learning Center does – we strive to build relationships that help us ask deep and thoughtful questions for rich and life-changing dialogue. With this student and his classmates, we explored the root causes of violence while learning peacemaking strategies.
Our facilitators often hear from high school students who say, “All the time I’ve been in school, no one has asked me what I think.” Education is not just math and English – it is our ability to think for ourselves and ask for what we need while building positive relationships.
Many people ask me to describe Peace Learning Center – our work is our message.
Here’s what goes on with PLC programs during a typical day of the week:
Northwest High School – Youth Development Facilitators Mame Keita and Mat Davis lead a class on social and emotional learning for 7th grade students. Throughout the day, they will lead five more classrooms of 7th and 8th students reaching about 140 students while also building a team of peer facilitators who reach other students.
Peace Learning Center in Eagle Creek Park – Community Programs Director John McShane starts a Focus 2020 workshop for fourteen people who are learning peacemaking and cultural skills as part of a process to become a Focus 2020 graduate eligible for action grants and service opportunities. John will later join Kristina at a professional development session for teachers.
Arsenal Tech High School – Youth Development Facilitator Clare Wildhack-Nolan engages a group of juniors in a “teach the facilitator” session to help these students become part of our Peace Crew who later in the day will completing an after school workshop on conflict resolution. Clare will reach 4 other classrooms of students reaching 120 students that day.
Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility – Youth Development Facilitators James “J.T.” Taylor and Darren Bunton start their day working in Indiana’s highest level juvenile correctional facility. JT facilitates a four hour session with 12 young men who recently arrived at the facility – they spend three sessions with J.T. in their first week. Darren starts in the maximum security isolation section visiting one on one with the most challenging youth. They will be there the full day ending with yoga classes led by Carole Tharp Perrin. When they started there were 140 fights and discipline actions a month. Last month there were 24.
IPS School #15 – Youth Program Director Kristina Hulvershorn leads a professional development session for all teachers and staff on social emotional learning that Youth Development Facilitator Tiffany Tibbot set-up. Throughout the school year, Tiffany will work her way through every classroom facilitating lessons for students, teachers and parents.
Marion County Juvenile Correctional Facility – Family Programs Director Naeemah Jackson accompanies a mother and her son appearing before a judge to set parameters on his release. The judge requires Naeemah to be in daily contact with the youth and his mother. Everyone in the household is visited by Naeemah who helps build a Family Peace Plan where everyone has their rights and responsibilities outlined while learning skills to deal with their ongoing conflicts and struggles. Naeemah’s referrals come from students in trouble – suspended from their schools or involved in criminal justice.
IPS School# 63 – Volunteer and Intern Coordinator Jay Horan leads a group of 20 Crispus Attucks seniors who have broken into five teams of four student facilitators to visit 3rd to 5th grade classrooms throughout IPS spending three one hour sessions with each group.
Everyday Peace Learning Center reaches hundreds of people in meaningful ways. Altogether these efforts reach more than 10,000 a year here, and our programs replicated in 8 US cities and 5 countries. No program or person can stop violence and start peace – but together we can reduce problems and increase kindness. There are truly no other choices.
As always, your help in sustaining our work is greatly appreciated. Please click here to learn about our Be Peace Campaign to raise $1 million to serve 10,000 people and accomplish three major goals in 2014.