As the school year kicks into gear, the Youth Program is already in full swing. We are continuing to provide schools in Whatcom County with high quality conflict resolution education at little or no cost, ensuring students are building the skills to navigate complex issues. We have already begun or completed partnerships with a number of schools, including: Columbia Elementary, Cascades Montessori Middle, Meridian Middle, Irene Reither Elementary, and Kulshan Middle, with many more in the works. If you would like to see a school you care about feature a workshop from the Youth Program, there are still available spots for winter and spring.
In addition to the numerous training opportunities in the schools, the Youth Program has also continued to partner with Juvenile Justice to increase the number of young people who do not commit any further crime by focusing on healthy ways to deal with stress, anger, and conflict. Daniel Soloff, the AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist reflects on the impact of the workshop on learning and relationships within a small group workshop.
I recently co-facilitated my first 8-hour workshop called, Healthy Choices for Girls for young women referred from the Juvenile Justice System. Over four sessions with these young women, I began to see the value of experiential and specialized education. Each session reached a new level of amity between the participants. The first session revealed the timid ones, the rambunctious ones, and the hesitant ones. Each participated in the curriculum, though most attention seemed focused on a more subtle learning taking place on the interpersonal level. Session two began to break down barriers of relating, each participant seemed to speak more honest and engage each other within the context of the curriculum.
By session three, the comfort reached a level that allowed space to express and see different sides of each other, even those often hidden. By the fourth session, my role was less of a teacher and more of a discussion guide, because they were able to take the topic and run with it to make it relevant learning to them. Where they had once been hesitant to add their opinions, they now exhibited so much camaraderie that every subject sparked an in-depth conversation. To witness this transformation in their social engagement gave me this underlying sense of accomplishment beyond the curriculum. They were socializing about healthy topics in a program that encouraged them to be more aware and considerate human beings. Success!