How I got into this work of Peace...
Imagine that two high school students had just been in a fight. The Principal sends them into the room with you, rolls his eyes and wishes you luck. They are livid. The feeling of anger and hostility in the room are palpable. It’s times like those, of which I’ve had hundreds, that I have a moment of doubt and wonder how this can ever work out. I let them each talk about what led up to hurting each other. I am calm. I am firm. I ask a lot of questions and clarify things I’m not sure about. I ask about their history together, and that’s when it all turns around. They remember the good times and laugh, breaking the thick feeling in the room, offering us all relief. I allow the camaraderie to re-emerge, then bring them back to the issues they were having so we can write an agreement. When we leave the room two hours later, each student is smiling and waving a written agreement around, greeting the Principal with it energetically. His jaw drops and he looks at me, amazed. That day, the lives of two students were changed for the better.
The Principal sang my praises for years to come. He continued to refer students to mediation instead of suspension as often as he could. This story, for me, is about the Principal, and his choice to see the power of peace work over punishment.
I believe that when we take intentional action in times of conflict, we can bring about positive growth in our lives, our relationships and the world. Most of my career has involved working with teenagers in a variety of environments. When I became a trained mediator, I had the opportunity to work with teens in this new capacity. I recall telling the Youth Mediation Director at the Center where I was trained that I’d love to have her job one day! A few years later, she called me to say that her position was available. Soon after, I was offered my dream job as the Director of Youth Mediation. I felt fortunate to work for a non-profit organization who partnered with the Juvenile Court, mental health system, and public-schools where kids were often under-served and had little resources. Getting a glimpse into each of those systems was eye-opening and educational; I began to understand the underlying issues within these government structures that were designed to support kids and families.
When I had my child in 2015, I left the non-profit environment to create my own business. I’m now working toward change in environments that have great influence for our future generations. I have just submitted my application for a Rotary International Peace Fellowship. This is a full-ride Masters Degree Program that will take me and my family overseas for 2 years beginning in 2018 or 2019 (depending on where we get placed). The potential for expanding my knowledge and examining the process of policy-influence at state and national levels that is offered through the Rotary Peace Fellowship is deeply appealing to me. I am excited to pursue my passion of creating peace, both at the individual level and on a global scale.