Peer Mediation Club really doesn’t sound like it stands out from any other club you hear about. One might not even have the slightest clue about what we do, or they might think we are just a bunch of kids who talk to others after they have committed an offense on campus. In reality though, we are much more than that. We have gone from a small club in a high school that helps students solve problems, to being interviewed for textbooks in Norway.
Peer Mediation started off five years ago as a way to help decrease violence at Chico High, and it has proven to be very useful, seeing as only two out of a hundred fights or confrontations haven’t been solved by mediation. It is also very evident that violence on campus has decreased dramatically. We believe that this is due greatly in part to the age-old knowledge that adolescents are more influenced by their peers than by adults. Therefore, if a peer helps another solve an issue, they are more likely to cooperate due to the fact that their peers are in no position of authority over them, and are less likely to pass severe judgment on them.
Another big contribution to the success of mediations is that in mediation, we don’t dictate the solution to the problem. We give parties the power to control how they will handle the situation. If they are the ones who come up with a solution to the dilemma, then they will be more likely to stick to the solution.
The Peer Mediation Club saw the impact that it was having on the school, so they decided to try their ideas on a larger scale—the community. Now, we go around to elementary and junior high schools to talk to kids about the dangers of bullying. We try to help them understand that the everyday decisions they make affect others. We feel that if we teach kids that bullying and hurting others is unacceptable, and we teach them how to resolve bullying issues in a peaceful manner, they will pass it on to future generations. We want kids to comprehend the idea that being numb to others’ opinions and feelings encourages bullying, and that consideration and empathy are expected behaviors when making a choice.
Our presentations are created with kids in mind; we make them easy to understand, and try to get them to interact as much as possible, so the kids are having fun while learning very important lessons. Apparently we are onto something, because we have been asked to go to many different elementary schools around the community. Once we have planted the idea in the kids’ minds, we let it grow, and then we come back when they are in junior high. This is when we help them set up their own peer mediation programs. Therefore, when they get to high school they have already been exposed to the idea that they are capable of helping themselves and others find solutions to problems, thus creating and sustaining ties with others.
The Peer Mediation Club has gained momentum. We held conferences in City Hall about bullying and prevention. We’ve even had the honor of being asked to speak at Chico State’s 2013 Sustainability Conference. Word about the club reached all the way to Norway; a children’s textbook author has asked to interview us for a segment she was dedicating to mediation and bullying in the book she was writing.
I do think though, that despite all the accolades we’ve received—the articles in the newspapers and the segments on the late-night news—the greatest reward is the thought that the children learned something from us, that we made a difference, that we changed lives for the better. That’s what makes all the hard work worthwhile. When one desires to see change, one has to stand up—because any effort helps, no matter how small one might think it is.
An important factor in the Peer Mediation Club’s success is its enthusiastic advisor, Mike Carroll. He began the program five years ago, and in his last year before retirement he remains as involved with the program as he was when it first began. Mr. Carroll is the kind of person who gives his all to a cause he truly believes in. He is one of the biggest assets of the Peer Mediation Club. He always has a plan, and a backup plan, and a backup-backup plan. Mr. Carroll truly understands that a leader isn’t someone who shouts orders, but someone who works with everyone to achieve a common goal. He treats each member as his equal, always making them feel respected. All I have to say is that next year’s advisor will have very big shoes to fill.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to be a part of something. It truly is a worthy cause—an idea greater than what is implied by its title. “Peer Mediation Club” is just the tip of the iceberg.
by Jonathan Dillanes
Jonathan Dillanes is a senior at Chico High School.