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WPDI Successfully Graduates 21 Students from its Domestic Harmonizer Program

On Wednesday, October 17th, the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) held a graduation ceremony for 21 students at Carnegie Middle School in Carson, California, after they successfully completed 12 hours of peer mediation training designed by WPDI and our partnering organization, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH).

This has been widely successful at Carnegie. As Monya Kian, WPDI’s Domestic Program Director, noted “we are thrilled to be training another cohort of peer mediators at Carnegie in this new school year.  The students in the class demonstrated a strong willingness to grow their communication skills and help their peers resolve problems peacefully.  Once again, WPDI is pleased to be partnering with CSUDH on this important initiative.”  The peer mediation component of the Domestic Harmonizer Program is significant because it allows these trained peer mediators to help their peers resolve interpersonal conflicts at school so that they do not escalate.  This is important for educators and administrators as well given that it aids them in addressing problems between students quickly while maintaining positive relationships and not resorting to punitive measures.

This new cohort of peer mediators learned about the essential elements of peer mediation and covered topics such as the sources of conflict, underlying needs, and the fundamentals of the mediation process.  During these three weeks of intensive training, students discussed how they had, previously, found themselves in altercations over losing their place in the lunch line, frustrations over group work, and social media issues. However, after training, all voiced a strong degree of comfortability in understanding and addressing conflict not only for themselves but for their peers as well. As Rushaya noted, “I learned a lot from this peer mediation training and feel comfortable using what I’ve learned to calm serious situations.” Bianca agreed and told WPDI that “I feel ready to become a peer mediator and make my school a better place.”

It is not only the students that feel enthusiastic about the DHP. Carnegie’s Dean of Behaviors, James Anderson, mentioned that “being a first-year Dean, the program is a tool for me – a powerful one – because kids often know more than we adults know. Information is important in mediation so it’s great for the school and for the students. Additionally, it looks great on a resume. Socially, academically – it helps them and the whole school.”

These 21 new peer mediators will next take their training and put it into practice. Carnegie’s counselors will now call on them to resolve eligible conflicts that arise among their peers.

WPDI launched the Domestic Harmonizer Program in 2016, in collaborate with CSUDH, at Carnegie Middle School in Carson, California. The program is a high-impact educational initiative that seeks to build the social and emotional health and resiliency of middle school students. As research has overwhelmingly shown, middle school youths who are exposed to violence, have experienced trauma, or live in chronic poverty are at higher risk of academic failure and social exclusion compared to their peers. Therefore, the Domestic Harmonizer Program seeks to reduce conflict within middle schools by training educators and students in Conflict Resolution Education.

The program is funded by the Verizon Foundation, whose Verizon Innovative Learning Initiative is committed to providing free technology access and innovative, hands-on learning for students who do not have the technology literacy necessary to succeed in our technology-heavy world. To learn more about the Verizon Innovative Learning Initiative, please visit VerizonInnovativeLearning.com.