Peer Mediators Forum
The Annual Peer Mediators’ Forum honors YOU, student mediators, for your commitment to helping fellow students resolve conflicts peacefully! It’s a day when you get to meet mediators from different schools, share your experiences, brainstorm ways to improve your programs, and hear inspiring stories from people who are advocating for peace around the world. Students look forward to our forum every year because it motivates them to return to school with more enthusiasm and unity than ever before, excited to tell everyone about peer mediation!
The Conflict Resolution Education Collaborative develops a new theme for each forum that reflects student interests and current events. We just completed our 2016 Forum and we are eager to start planning for our next Forum in the Spring of 2017. Take a look below at what we’ve done in the past…
2016 Forum: Featured Richard Cohen, co-founder of School Mediation Associates – the first organization dedicated to the use of mediation in schools. He has trained over 10,000 educators and young people to be mediators here in Massachusetts and around the world. Richard spoke with the students about Unconscious Bias, helping them to discuss how they see the the world and how their perspective is based on their socialization and life experiences. Students reported the day was informative and thought provoking.
2015 Forum: Featured Honorable Amy L. Nechtem, Chief Justice of the Juvenile Court. Judge Nechtem chronicled her life growing up in Massachusetts, legal career and path to becoming a Judge. She ended her address by stressing the importance of leadership and how each and every student seated at the event is making a positive effort to improve the world around them. The students had the opportunity to observe a simulated mediation which was a role-play focused on social media and how conflicts arise when actions are taken too far online. The students practiced and fine-tuned their mediation skills and addressed the ethical issues one faces as a mediator.
2014 Forum: Featured Mariah Steele, a choreographer, dancer, educator and interdisciplinary researcher. Mariah began her signature research about using dance in peace building while writing her thesis at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Mariah spoke to the students about how movement can provide a creative and peaceful outlet for people going through conflict. In addressing and acknowledging one’s traumas and opening up the opportunity to move forward in one’s life. Mariah is also the founder and Artistic Director of Quicksilver Dance, a modern dance company based in Cambridge, MA, and she teaches dance and dance history at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. In April 2013, The Boston Globe named Mariah a “rising talent” in the arts.
2013 Forum: Featured Janet Connors a long time community and social justice activist in Boston neighborhoods. She spoke about the power or restorative justice practices in schools as alternatives to suspension. Restorative justice practice is a means to build positive relationships; and foster a strong community by engaging in meaningful dialogue through the Circle Process. Janet is recognized for her work in Victim-Offender Dialogue, having lost her son Joel to homicide, and was instrumental in implementing a policy change in the state of Massachusetts offering restorative dialogue. Connors has over 40 years of experience working with youth and families in community based organizations such as the Louis Brown Peace Institute. She is on the Leadership Team of the Family Advisory Committee for the Department of Children and Families and is a Survivor to Survivor Support and Program Consultant to the Homicide Support Services Program at the BIDMC Violence Prevention and Recovery Center.
2012 FORUM: This forum featured Mr. Jan Schlichtmann, an advocate for civil and environmental justice best known for his ground-breaking representation of eight Woburn families in their protracted fight for the truth concerning the contamination of the Woburn City water supply with toxic waste chemicals and their community’s epidemic of childhood leukemia. The Woburn case and Mr. Schlichtmann’s work in it has been the subject of a number of books, reports and articles in legal and scientific journals as well as the popular media including the international bestseller and major motion picture “A Civil Action.”
Hayley Reardon, an aspiring folk singer from Marblehead, MA also presented. She is a Recognized by Youth Service America as an everyday hero, Hayley has for the past two years been working with the PACER Center through their Teens Against Bullying project. In her role as National Peer Spokesperson, she has teamed with The PACER National Bullying Prevention Center in their efforts to raise awareness and inspire other young people to believe that “the end of bullying begins with me.” Her multiple collaborative efforts include videos, lyrics, and associated classroom discussion questions that have been distributed to hundreds of middle and high schools nationwide and featured on New England Cable News Network and CBS/WBZNewsRadio.
2011 FORUM: NSCMC was honored to present 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, Executive Director of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa based in Accra, Ghana. She has been honored with the Blue Ribbon Peace Award from the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Profiles in Courage Award by the Kennedy Library Foundation. Under Leymah’s leadership, a group of women managed to force a meeting with Charles Taylor and extract a promise from him to attend peace talks in Ghana. She then led a delegation of Liberian women to Ghana to continue applying pressure on the warring factions during the peace process. Her work with the Liberian Mass Action for Peace was featured in the acclaimed documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, and she has recently published the book Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. She drew from her experiences in her native Liberia, with her own family, and her dramatic international peace building work to inspire the students to make a positive difference and be agents of change in their communities. She encouraged them to take their mediation skills seriously and emphasized their role as the leaders of tomorrow. In the words of one participant, “Awesome—one of the most inspirational speakers I’ve ever seen.”
To learn more about Leymah Gbowee, please click here.
2010 Forum: This forum featured Carol Grosman, founder of Jerusalem Stories Projects, an organization that uses storytelling as a tool for conflict transformation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ms. Grosman presented several stories from both sides of the conflict and showed a photo exhibition. The participants included over 100 students and coordinators from 9 middle and high schools across the North Shore. The participants raved about the forum calling it: a “Life-changing experience” and saying that: “The storytelling was really good. It felt like the actual person was speaking to me.” The participants had group discussions about the power of storytelling in peer mediation and how they could improve their peer mediation programs. Century Bank and Eastern Bank generously supported the forum which was held at the Peabody Marriott.
To learn more about Carol Grosman and her work with the Jerusalem Stories Project, click here.
2009 FORUM: The 6th Annual Peer Mediators’ Forum was held at Salem State College on March 20th. The 60+ student mediators who attended enjoyed a lively and interactive presentation by Dr. Ulric Johnson, a counselor, educator, and director of Teens Against Gang Violence. Dr. Johnson challenged the students to question their definition of a gang and the power that this association can have. He used his 10Cs model of Diversity Awareness and Social Change to provide clear language to talk about diversity. He helped students better understand how the mediation services they provide to their schools will promote real change that will have an impact on all of the students. In the words of one participant, “It wasn’t a boring field trip like usual – it was exciting and I learned so much.” After the presentation, students from Lynnfield High School, Nantucket High School, Higgins Middle School in Peabody and Rupert A. Nock Middle School in Newburyport shared the successes and challenges of their individual peer mediation programs and offered one another support, encouragement, and new ideas.
2008 FORUM: The theme was “Lessons in Forgiveness and Reconciliation: What does it mean to you? Is saying I’m sorry enough?” and it featured a keynote address by Kimmie Weeks, internationally acclaimed advocate for the welfare of children and survivor of the Liberian civil war. Mr. Weeks urged students and teachers to, “use their mediation skills to become pioneers of change.” Following his address, local mediator, teacher, and artist, John Sarrouf, led the students in a discussion about how reconciliation works and tested their understanding in small group discussions of real life scenarios. One peer mediator waiting for an autograph from Mr. Weeks remarked, “I am so moved and inspired. Now I see how mediation can work in the world.”
2007 FORUM: This forum focused on the positive and negative uses of power and featured keynote speaker, Doug Wilhelm, author of the book, “The Revealers.” Standing at 6’10, Wilhelm ‘revealed’ to student mediators his own personal story of being bullied as a young adult. He spoke of the importance of treating others with respect and pointed to several examples of how bullying could result in tragedy, such as the events at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. He then shared two other anonymous stories, which illustrated both positive and negative uses of power and bullying. Students had the opportunity to write and share their own personal “power” story. Student stories offered perspectives such as being a bystander to bullying, how it feels to be the victim of bullying, and bully. One student noted, “I am glad I got to share something that I have held in.” Another reflected, “It made you ask yourself, ‘Why did I do that?’ or ‘Why do people act this way?’” The mediators concluded that there is no easy answer and that building a safe context to talk about these issues, like through peer mediation programs, has never been more important.
To learn more about Doug Wilhelm, click here.
2006 FORUM: Dynamic keynote speaker, Dr. Jim Fitzgerald, founder of the nationally recognized Student Leadership Team program, challenged students to “lead by example” and utilize their mediation skills every day to promote a more peaceful school climate. “Dr. Jim” led icebreakers that revealed differences and similarities among the students. Small group discussions were facilitated by Peabody High School mediators and gave students an opportunity to compare their personal experiences with conflict and talk about ways to resolve or eliminate it. The groups were mixed—middle and high school, rural and urban—to maximize diversity and encourage lively discussion. While the students were meeting, the program coordinators gathered to share the challenges and successes of their schools’ programs and ways to increase referrals and publicize peer mediation in their school communities. Several coordinators of new programs found this particularly informative and helpful.
For more information visit Dr. Jim Fitzgerald.
2005 FORUM: Keynote speaker, “Dr. Phil” Laidlaw, a psychologist and Director of the Diversity Committee for the Brookline Center, looked at issues of bias, prejudice, and bullying and how mediation can help resolve the conflicts they create for students. In addition, Mamadou Diop, an irresistible, energetic master rhythm guitarist and drummer presented a world-class cultural experience. Mamadou’s original songs are primarily sung in Wolof, the language of Senegal. The sound is a guitar and drum-led eclectic West-African pop that includes the rhythms of high-life, juju, rumba, samba, salsa, and reggae blended into authentic Senegalese ethnic rhythms.
For more information visit Mamadou or the Brookline Center.
2004 FORUM: The goal of our first Peer Mediators Forum was to bring students together and honor them for their hard work as ambassadors of their schools. Judge Cornetta from Salem District Court, Representatives from the Probation Office and Administrative Office of the Trial Court, and several North Shore legislators attended to show their support for our peer mediators. Students had the opportunity to share personal stories about what they were learning and practicing and reflect on the impact these skills had on their lives and schools. Keynote speaker, Ed Harris, from the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service Department helped students see how their mediation skills could be used in their careers and in a real world context.