Peace Education Coming Full Circle

Data is an important part of the work that nonprofit organizations do. They have to keep track of how many people they help and for how long. Quantifying their impact is often essential for getting grants and acquiring the funding they need to continue their work. But anyone who has benefited from a nonprofit organization knows that what matters to them is how the nonprofit made them feel. They felt welcomed or respected; they felt they got skills, information, or a sense of community from the nonprofit’s work. 

Joi Offutt was 10 year old when she benefited from the work that Peace Education Program does. “I was raised in a community that had high risk of conflict and gun violence. When I was a youth, we had a community site we would visit to play sports and engage with others. There was a representative from Peace Education that would work with us. I was trained at an early age to be a peer mediator,” Joi says. She credits former program manager, Janene Shakir, with mentoring her. 

As an adult, Joi has worked in community development and engagement; in 2016, she started putting the skills she learned from Peace Education Program to work for Peace Education Program. She began as a case manager on the Pivot to Peace team which allowed her to help individuals who had been victims of violence or at high risk of being victims of violence. Recently, though, she transitioned to the programming team, which allows her to work with elementary, middle, and high school students in schools. 

“The skills that Peace Education Program teaches are skills that can benefit any age of life. It’s never too late; it’s never too soon.”
–Joi Offutt

Because Joi has firsthand experience of the benefits of Peace Education’s programming, her goal is to get it into as many schools as possible. Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from learning conflict resolution. When Peace Education programmers come into schools, teachers end up learning or reviewing skills that can help them manage conflicts they see happening in their classrooms. Plus, they have the resources and contacts at Peace Education when they need additional support. 

Joi would love to see more middle and high school students acquire peer mediation training in order to curb suspension rates and administrative consequences. Having learned skills for handling conflict without resorting to violence, she knows how important it is to have control of one’s feelings, be in a safe environment, have a sense of fairness, and communicate effectively. “Kids talk about the conflicts, but it’s in the wrong setting,” she says. Giving them the tools to talk about conflict without escalating conflict is essential to their well-being both now and in the future.

By Carrie Vittitoe | Photo by Melissa Donald