We are pleased to be working in our second 15-week session of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant at Sullivan Middle School (Sullivan). The program runs every Wednesday from 3:30-5:30 with about 50 students at Sullivan, and through collaboration with the teachers, our facilitators help students understand conflict assessment and transformation through interactive activities.
For this semester, the Center has welcomed a new facilitator, Helen O’Hara, a Social Psychology Master’s student at UMASS Amherst with violence prevention and teaching experience. Helen is quickly bonding with the students, especially through leading sessions on theater games that enforce the importance of self-expression and cooperation with others. The students continue to learn each week about a “peacebuilder”, recently Mariam Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and advocate for disadvantaged Americans and Thich Nhat Hahn, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and peace activist. Recently, Christa, the Center’s Executive Director, lead a session with students that reviewed conflict escalation, resulting feelings of met/unmet needs, and how one’s own feelings help cultivate empathy for others—all of which are pertinent to conflict assessment and transformation. Claire, the Board Chair, and Raven, Education Program Intern, also co-facilitated meditation sessions with students that helped them understand their physical body and environment in high-stress situations. And, in coming weeks, the Center will continue to use Brazil’s “Theatre of the Oppressed” approach through activities that highlight social reality and how to change it constructively, particularly as it relates to conflict assessment and transformation.