Living in a nation that feels more divided with each passing day can take an emotional toll on all of us. But bright spots in this tumultuous time exist in our community. The Peace Education Program is one of them.
Known as Peace Ed, the organization – which began 35 years ago and currently includes 88 schools and 67 community sites in its network – provides learning experiences to youths and adults that help reduce violence, enhance personal integrity and foster mutual support. To learn more, we spoke with Executive Director Eileen Blanton.
HOW IT HAS EVOLVED
“The program started 35 years ago when we were teaching conflict resolution in one classroom in one school,” said Blanton. “We have worked tirelessly over the last (several) years to bring new initiatives to Louisville youth. Some of those initiatives include reducing prejudice and training gang-involved youth on conflict resolution. We have introduced our programs to entire middle schools and preschools. (We) have also created a mediation manual that is being used by different conflict resolution educators around the world.”
Last year, they joined forces with community partners Dr. Eddie Woods, KentuckyOne Health, University of Louisville Hospital, the Louisville Metro Department of Safety and Healthy Neighborhoods and others to establish “Pivot to Peace.” This collaboration is providing an opportunity for victims of stabbings and gunshot injuries to identify and address the factors in their lives that have put them at risk of violence, both physically and mentally, and to help turn their lives around.
“We impacted over 25,000 youth and community members, served 26 schools and 15 community sites and provided professional development training for 300 adults during the 2016-2017 school year,” Blanton affirmed. “On average, in just 8.44 hours, Peace Ed can demonstrate an 84 percent increase in youth knowledge of strategies for nonviolent conflict resolution and a 30 percent increase in their use of listening, communication and conflict resolution skills.”
Thanks to Peace Ed’s work, thousands of people in Louisville are able to reject violence and choose peaceful ways of solving their problems. From the streets to hallways and boardrooms, Peace Ed alums are recognized as “champions for change,” who continue to put their skills into practice in meaningful ways.
A group of Meyzeek Middle School students will be celebrated at Peace Ed’s upcoming event, Champions for Change: A Celebration of People that Make Peace Possible, taking place on Nov. 8 at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage.
“We are excited to honor the recipients of the Inaugural Lee Thomas Champion for Change Award,” said Blanton. “They exemplify the mission and values of Peace Ed to reduce violence, enhance personal integrity and foster mutual respect. The award goes to the Meyzeek Middle School Navigators, 10 young men who are surrounded by violence and have spent the last three years dedicated to developing the skills needed to navigate conflicts peacefully.”
The Navigators have met every week since sixth grade with Peace Ed trainer Durk Davidson learning to understand their own anger triggers and cues, strategies to de-escalate conflict and develop active listening and mediating skills. Their weekly meetings serve as a safe space to find mutual support in navigating the difficult – sometimes violent – situations they encounter at their school, neighborhoods and homes.
“The change I have seen in these guys since the first day we met is phenomenal,” said Davidson. “Every week, they share how they’ve used their skills to navigate conflicts and to improve their lives. I am so proud of these young men and how much they’ve grown. They are already a big part of their schools and neighborhoods being safer places to grow up.”
The Navigators invite the community to come celebrate Peace Ed’s 35 years of victories over violence with all the people who make peace possible throughout the city. There will be live music (including a special performance by Ben Sollee and Cynthia Fletcher), hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
“It’s impossible to measure the amount of violence that has been prevented by this work and all of the ways it impacts individuals for the rest of their lives,” said Blanton. “However, our efforts have been praised as a factor in reducing violent crime in Louisville this year by 35 percent. We are excited to celebrate our mission on Nov. 8 and join with our community to raise funds to help our youth to resolve their conflicts peacefully.” VT
Peace Ed’s Champions For Change
Kentucky Center for
African American Heritage
5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 8
By the Numbers
• Schools with high levels of conflict cite their work with Peace Ed as reducing their conflicts by 25 to 50 percent.
• In just 8.44 hours Peace Ed can demonstrate:
– 84 percent increase in youth knowledge of strategies for nonviolent conflict resolution
– 30 percent increase in their use of listening, communication and conflict resolution skills.
• Teen Leaders for Diversity participants demonstrate:
– Curriculum understanding up 88 percent
– Diversity skills increase 66 percent
• 95 percent of the youth trained practice at least two new strategies for solving their conflicts nonviolently.
• National statistics show cooperative games programs decrease bullying by 43 percent.
• Schools that implement restorative practices (including conflict resolution and prejudice reduction skills) show an increase in attendance and a decrease in suspensions.