Before Peace Education Program, Durk Davidson worked for two decades in Jefferson County Public Schools as a Family Resource & Youth Services Center coordinator working on implementing peer mediation and conflict resolution.
Durk Davidson is working hard to reconnect after so much separation.
His connections give encouragement and life lessons to elementary and middle-school boys through Peace Education Program’s curriculum for young men. This program, called Navigators, is something he has been doing for the past 8 years — a natural transition after Durk’s retirement as a JCPS Family Resource and Youth Services Center Coordinator
Right now, Navigators is working with about 130 kids within nine local schools, all which Durk says have different dynamics. Navigators is a strong community within Peace Education Program’s effort to teach youth how to deal with conflict. And Durk has seen that it works. He tells of running into past program members who are eager to see him and tell him about their lives.
The program is growing — another Navigator leader, Justin DeLorenzo, has started leading the groups, and under the leadership of Durk and Carrie Christensen, program manager, they have developed a new manual with a student guide so that the program can continue to grow. Durk’s dream is to multiply this program to include six to seven men being positive role models for these young students.
Sometimes students come into the program hesitant, but that feeling quickly dissipates. “They form a bond with each other, and a lot of times they’ve seen me in the building,” he says. By the completion of the 10 to 20-week program, Durk says he and school staff were able to check various data points, including attendance rates, suspensions, referrals, and grades, to see if participants were having real benefits from the program (and they were!).
“It has been the most powerful thing I’ve been a part of,” Durk says. “It has been so rewarding.”
Topics during Navigator programs can be serious and confidential, but also it is about encouragement and skills. For instance, Durk says that one big thing as school years end and begin is teaching about the transition – what to expect and how to get ready. “The lockers are a big thing,” he says. As well as choosing the right schools, visiting the open house, just thinking ahead to the next step can eliminate stress. He is always trying to find ways to connect and smooth the paths for these students.
What Are They Learning?
Navigators provide participating students with not only the support of a consistent adult presence in their lives over the course of the program, but gives them a clearer understanding of their emotions, including what triggers their anger and the physical cues their bodies experience when they feel anger inside (such as sweating and biting one’s lips). Participants also learn the language and practice the skills of conflict resolution often by playing cooperative games. “They love those games,” Durk says. “Sometimes they’ll come up with some parts that they twist and change, and I’m all for that, but I follow Peace Ed’s building blocks.”