Liberty, Discovery students train as peer mediators

Adolescent rivalry, misunderstanding and intense emotions can escalate without help from others. That’s the job of peer mediators in Madison’s middle schools.

Seventeen students from Discovery and Liberty middle schools trained in a two-day workshop recently.

Melissa Butler, counselor at Discovery Middle School, defined peer mediation as a process with trained students attempting to help disputants, or peers involved in a conflict, resolve their issues in a peaceful manner.

“Mediators and disputants experience personal growth and higher self-esteem, resulting from working out problems in a positive and empowering way,” Butler said. “In addition, peer mediation programs can help to reduce violence and assist students in developing lifelong conflict resolution skills.”

To participate, students must apply in spring as seventh-graders, complete a written interview, have positive recommendations from teachers, maintain a C average in each subject and attend and successfully complete summer training.

Peer mediators at Discovery are Canaan Karr, Morgan Kurowsky, Morne’ le Roux, Daniel Leaphart, Jessa Legowski, Anthony Luongo, David McDaniel, Hannah Pope, Laura Pugh and Praise Tillman.

Peer mediators from Liberty are Capri Alex, Annabel King, Megan Kucera, Justin Locke, Jennifer Farner, Abby Murray and Adan Youngblood.

At Discovery, Butler and library aide Deb Harlow sponsor peer mediators. Counselor Karen Clayton works with Liberty’s group.

During the workshop, the students acted in skits, did role playing and heard lectures explaining conflict resolution. “One scenario involved two students who were disputing over who should pay for a lost library book,” Butler said. “One had checked it out and the other student lost it.” To complicate the situation, the disputing students were friends.

“Mediators had to help students resolve the conflict as to who would be responsible for paying for the book,” Butler said. “The peer mediators saw how conflict and resolution would affect the friendship.”

Typically, the students have about three mediations monthly — more in spring.

Anne Isbell with the Community Mediation Center trained the students after securing a grant for funding. Residents can donate to pay the $500 training fee when a grant is unavailable. Discovery PTA served pizza for the workshop.

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