When you hear the word “teenager” what thoughts come to your mind? I’ll bet “mediator” is not one of them. Yet, many high school students throughout Arizona participate in peer mediation programs in their schools and have been trained to mediate disputes between their classmates.
The Arizona Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution (AACR) has hosted an annual Peer Mediation Conference for these high school peer mediators for thirteen years. Beginning in 1998, high school students in the Phoenix area were invited to an assembly at Supervisors Auditorium in Phoenix. The conference has grown each successive year. In 2006, AACR was fortunate to incorporate the Youth Conference into the Association for Conflict Resolution’s national conference held at the Phoenix Convention Center. In addition to providing training with national educators, the conference provided the students an opportunity to mix and mingle with ADR professionals from across the country and around the world to see first-hand that the field of ADR is open to them as a career path beyond high school. Since 2006, AACR has invited schools statewide to participate in the Peer Mediation Conference.
So, who is AACR and what do we offer students that makes the annual Peer Mediation Conference so important?
AACR is a non-profit organization that draws members from across Arizona who practice, teach, study or are just supportive of alternative dispute resolution. Among the mission and goals of AACR are supporting and improving the field of alternate dispute resolution by increasing public understanding and acceptance of appropriate dispute resolution and collaborative decision making, advancing the educational interests of all persons engaged in dispute resolution and enhancing the skills of mediators. What better way to promote these goals than to engage the peacemakers of tomorrow – teenagers.
Each year, AACR hosts the Peer Mediation Conference at no charge to the students or their program coordinators. AACR members and other interested mediators volunteer their time, talent and experience to provide a mini-training to these student mediators. Training materials are provided to all students, coordinators and trainers. The 5-hour conference begins at 8:30 am with registration and continental breakfast, followed by an opening plenary session, then small, break-out training groups mixing students from all the schools for 2 ½ hours, ending with lunch together. By 1:30, everyone is exhausted, exhilarated and looking forward to coming next year for more.
In 2011, students from Kingman and Tucson joined students from the Phoenix metropolitan area at Mesa Community College to make it the best attended conference yet -- 200 students and 25 coordinators – with break-out training sessions facilitated by 25 volunteer mediator/trainers. We want 2012 to be even better!
As a small organization with limited funds, AACR is looking for financial assistance to continue to make this worthwhile youth program a success. Did I say it is no charge to the students and coordinators? And that the trainers volunteer their time? In the past, we were fortunate topartner with South Mountain or Mesa Community College,without whose facilities and enthusiastic support the conference would not have been possible. Unfortuately, since 2011, those facilities are no longer available to us.
We are seeking support from businesses, local colleges and universities, the State Bar,other community sources.... and YOU. If you or your firm are interested in financially supporting this worthwhile project, or if you know of a company or organization who might be interested, no donation is too small or too large. All donations to support the AACR Peer Mediation Conference are earmarked exclusively for this project and your contribution is tax deductible. In addition, your support will be acknowledged in the conference materials to show the students and their schools that the legal community values and supports the work they are doing in their school community.
Would you like to be a part of the conference as a volunteer trainer? We would love to have you participate. You will find it to be a rewarding experience to work with exceptional teenagers.
AACR proudly looks forward to hosting the 15th annual Peer Mediation Conference on November 13, 2012 at the Franciscan Renewal Center, 5802 E Lincoln Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85253.
Ruth Lusby is a past president of AACR and Youth Conference Chairperson. For more information about theupcoming Peer Mediation Conference, you may contact Ms. Lusby at email@example.com