George Washington Community High School students are participating in a pilot program with the Peace Learning Center to continue improving the school climate. “Peers Making Peace” is the new peer mentoring group now forming at GWCHS. Members of the group were recommended by their teachers or administrators as students who exemplify the qualities of a peaceful leader.
Students in the peer mentoring group are just beginning to learn about their role in the new George Washington, but they know they have the opportunity to make a difference in the experiences of their fellow students.
“We’re learning about mediation, which is helping others resolve issues without violence,” said a member of Peers Making Peace. “We are an impartial part of the solution, not judges.”
The group is studying and discussing mediation and discipline practices in schools across the country in situations similar to George Washington. They’re also discussing ways to assist in solving conflicts between students, or even between a teacher and a student.
“You all have the power of voice,” Peers Making Peace sponsor Kelly Hannon said to the group. Students are exploring ways they might be able to exercise their voice to make a change, like giving a presentation to George Washington staff members on conflict resolution from a student’s point of view.
This spring, Peers Making Peace members will complete training sessions with Peace Learning Center experts and become young leaders making a positive impact on their school community.
And the Peers Making Peace program isn’t the only change making a positive impact on the new George Washington:
- With the help of an Alternative Education grant, George Washington Principal Emily Butler and her staff have created the Accelerate Academy. This is a school within a school where students who have fallen behind academically are moved from classrooms where they were mixed with younger students and are given targeted, dedicated support to complete 7th and 8thgrade in one year, and potentially complete high school in three years.
- Mighty Lotus is coming in once a week to work with students in the Accelerate Academy. George Washington is the first high school to partner with Mighty Lotus. Volunteers will teach students mindfulness practices to improve focus and breathing. Students will also learn how to apply de-stressing techniques and methods for self-control. Butler hopes to roll Mighty Lotus to other parts of the student population in the spring.
- The Indy Learning Center will be coming in Monday through Thursday for after-school tutoring and additional tutoring during the day.
- A revived student government will ensure students have a voice in their own school and can serve as positive examples to one another.
- Also with Alternative Education funding, George Washington has hired four Attendance Mentors. These mentors not only ensure students are getting to class, but will carry 15 student caseloads. They will check in with students in the mornings and after school to help identify needs their students might have.
With every step forward, Butler has been focused on ensuring staff and mentors understand what George Washington students need.
“We’re filling spots with people that understand our students and will give them a chance, ones who will really talk to students about what’s going on and don’t just lecture them,” Butler said. “You have to build relationships first, if you want to motivate students.”
We’re excited to see the George Washington community move forward with these positive changes and to see students supported with the help of engaged, excited peer and professional mentors!