WHMC Hosts 3rd Annual Middle School Peer Mediator Conference

Nearly 50 peer mediators from Kohala and Kealakehe middle schools gathered in Hawi for the 3rd Annual Middle School Peer Mediator Conference. The students were joined by numerous adults and volunteers, including WHMC BOD members Ruth Smith and Jan Marrack. The purpose of the event is to bring together mediators from different schools so that they can get to know one another and develop camaraderie over their shared interest in mediation. The day was filled with an abundance of positive, youthful energy as the mediators engaged in a diversity of activities including a mixer, the creation of 60-90 second video commercials about peer mediation, a rousing game of kick softball, and an ono lunch served with aloha by the friendly staff at The Hub. Students were sent on their way with gift bags and our sincere aloha for the service they offer to their schools. This event gets larger and more complex every year and we are grateful for the support of the Hub, volunteer videographer Mike Frailey, school counselors Lauren Canton and Lisa Harris, WHMC BOD and staff members, and most of all – the kids! It’s easy to get excited about the future when you spend the day around such engaging youth.

peer mediators assemble in a circle at the beginning of the eventboard president jan marrack chats with a group of peer mediators lunch students planning their video commercial

Peer Mediation Spotlight – Kohala Middle School

Kohala Middle School peer mediators visit the HIPAg farm and learning center in North Kohala as part of their community education and leadership training.

Kohala Middle School peer mediators visit the HIPAg farm and learning center in North Kohala as part of their community education and leadership training.

West Hawaii Mediation Center embarked on our middle and high school peer mediation pilot program in late 2012; our first partner school was Kohala Middle School (KMS). The planning and training processes that we use today were established and refined at KMS. It has been a mutually rewarding and beneficial partnership. We were able to guide and support the development of their program and their successes, innovations, and challenges have helped us to define the work that we are currently doing in other schools.

KMS trained their first mediators in early 2013 and have steadily built their program with an eye on sustainability. Now in its 3rd full year, the program has expanded beyond offering peer mediation services to the school community. Peer mediation is actually a semester-long course that is offered twice per year. In addition to completing the peer mediation 12-hour training, students learn about conflict resolution and social/emotional health in greater depth. Students then develop their own mini-trainings that they present to all students and teachers through a series of classroom visits. This is a wonderful leadership opportunity and an effective way to teach conflict resolution skills to everyone at the school. These student leaders also present at school assemblies, lead anti-bullying efforts at the school, participate in the island-wide Hokupa’a Leadership Council, and take at least two community-based field trips each semester to bolster the values of service learning and leadership.

During the months of February and March we will be training the next group of mediators at KMS – bringing the total number for SY2015-16 to 32. KMS is a leader in peer mediation on the Big Island and we are deeply grateful for this meaningful partnership. We send a sincere mahalo to principal Alan Brown and counselor and peer mediation coordinator Lauren Canton for their dedication and support.

Youth Mediators Receive Mentorship and Training

Shane Palacat-Nelson and Kealakehe Intermediate peer mediators

WHMC Board of Director Shane Palacat-Nelson and mediator volunteer extraordinaire Leroy Grose served as mentor-trainers to 16 peer mediators from Kealakehe Intermediate School in September, 2015. This was a very special training because the group was highly capable, engaging, and diverse. We all felt enriched by our experience with these young people. Special thanks to school counselor Lisa Harris for her coordination and mentoring efforts.

Leroy Grose and Kealakehe Intermediate peer mediatorsIt’s been a very busy fall for Youth Programs Coordinator Robyn Skudlarek. She has been training nearly 50 middle and high school peer mediators at Kohala Middle, Kohala High, and Kealakehe Intermediate schools. In order to effectively train these young mediators Robyn utilizes adult volunteer mediators and trained school counselors to serve as mentors during mock mediation sessions. WHMC Board member and mediator Shane Palacat-Nelson and volunteer mediators Leroy Grose and Melony Tavares have all served as youth mentors this fall. It is a really special opportunity to work with these young mentors; they are inspiring, humorous, and lively! Providing youth with a diversity of mentors during their training is critically important and Robyn is always looking for more volunteer mediators to serve in this capacity.

Our pilot middle and high school peer mediation program continues to expand. Robyn currently works with four middle schools and two high schools. Two additional high schools and one middle school – all in the Kona area – have expressed interest in starting up peer mediation programs and Robyn is engaged in planning and information gathering sessions with all three schools.

Because of the expansion of the pilot program, Chelsea LaFrance, case manager for WHMC, has taken over the coordination and training duties for the elementary school peer mediation program. Chelsea has a a lot of experience working with youth, has a great repoire with kids, and is really enjoying the opportunity to work in the schools.

If you would like to learn more about our youth programs or are a trained volunteer mediator who is willing in serving as a youth mentor, please contact the office at 885-5525.