For Clarkston High School students in Lutheran Services of Georgia’s Conflict Transformation workshops, learning is much more than listening to lectures or taking notes. One Monday afternoon, students demonstrated that learning is a creative activity. Accompanied by giggles and an acoustic guitar, they sang powerful words they had written about justice: “People, can’t you see that justice is our nature? Let us all be brothers and sisters.” Even as they enjoyed creating together, they learned about justice, nonviolence, and conflict transformation.
After an incident at Clarkston High School escalated, LSG and CHS wanted to equip students to better respond to conflict. Carolyn Blair, LSG’s 21st Century Community Learning Coordinator, and Erin Mills, the ASAP Parent Coordinator, decided to incorporate conflict resolution into LSG’s Afterschool Academic/Arts Program (ASAP) curriculum.
They reached out to local community members Erin Davenport, Paul Reeser, and Ike Reeser to help coordinate the program. Erin and Paul live in a small Christian community in Clarkston that is devoted to nonviolence and working for peace in their community. Together with their community, they run Peace Playground, a summer program that gives elementary school-aged kids in their neighborhood to opportunity to explore nonviolence. Paul, a youth pastor in Clarkston, holds a BA in Theology and Ministry from Lipscomb University and has a deep passion for nonviolence. Ike Reeser, a minister at Northlake Church of Christ, holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution and has over 25 years of experience working with youth. Motivated by their love of the Clarkston community, Erin, Paul, and Ike agreed to help.
Now, each Monday afternoon, ASAP students participate in interactive Conflict Transformation workshops. Conflict Transformation workshops provide a safe, supportive environment for students to gain a deeper understanding of conflict. Through a diverse curriculum that includes conflict style surveys, roleplaying, storytelling, music, drama, object lessons, and group reflections, students develop their abilities to respond to conflict in healthy, effective ways.The workshops complement ASAP’s efforts to prepare students to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.
According to Paul Reeser, “Almost everyone deals with conflict on a regular basis. Learning healthy ways of processing conflict prepares young people to enjoy better relationships with the people in their community.” Paul hopes that these workshops will deepen relationships between students and empower them to become peaceful members of their communities. “Our community struggles with youth violence,” he said. “We see a real need to call our young people to join us in a more peaceful way. We want to open our community to the great potential that is within us when we find peaceful ways of transforming the conflicts we face.”
For more information on LSG’s Afterschool Academic/Arts Program, click here. You can also support ASAP at Clarkston High School, Indian Creek Elementary School, or Tobie Grant Manor by purchasing and donating an item from ASAP’s Amazon wishlist.