by Kande Lopes
During the school years 1993-1994, Kamehameha Schools Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate's Community Education Division Native Hawaiian Drug Free Schools/Communities Program (NHDFSCP) developed a partnership with Waimanalo School. An initial contact was made by NHDFSCP's school based program manager Beverly Freitas, and with Waimanalo School's administration, counselors, and members from the Drug Free/Wellness Cadre. As a result of this meeting, an agreement was formed by which funding and support was given to the school's Peer Mediation Program for prevention education.
Sadly, the school's funding from Kamehameha Schools has been eliminated because of federal and state budget cuts. Ways to secure funds, such as through grant moneys, are being explored. It is hoped that those efforts and an attempt at funding raising will be successful because the Peer Mediation Leadership Camp, scheduled for January 31 to February 2, is in jeopardy.
Waimanalo School is primarily composed of a Native Hawaiian student population, many of which are considered at risk. The Peer Mediation Program attempts to empower students and develop self-esteem. Through their participation in the program, students are provided the opportunity to learn and practice essential communication, problem-solving and decision making skills. As a preventative measure, the program seeks to encourage the total well-being of oneself.
Peer mediation is a conflict resolution technique that assists individuals to resolve their dispute or disagreement. Student differences are resolved with peer assistance on the playground, in the classroom, and in the office. These trained mediators from grades 3 to 8 follow a process of asking questions, listening carefully to both sides, and then help their fellow students find a solution to their differences. The mediators do not take sides or offer advice; what results is a "win-win" situation, especially when both sides "give in" in their attempts to solve the problem and prevent the situation from getting worse.
Funds were utilized to support the activities and curriculum needs to successfully promote the Peer Mediation Program. The following activities were held during this time: an expansion of the Peer Mediation Program (nearly 300 persons have been trained) which began in school year 1992-93; ongoing Peer Mediation Training Workshops for students, faculty, staff, and interested parents; a yearly leadership camp for grades 6 to 8 mediators; and attendance at the Hawaiian Leadership Conference by a select group of students and their counselors. Instructional materials/curriculum purchases were also possible.
As a result of these efforts, the goals established when this program began are becoming a reality. Student and adults have been empowered by the development of their self-esteem through their participation and contribution to the program. They have been provided with an opportunity to develop and practice effective communication, problem solving, and decision making skills. The number of referrals for disruptive student behavior has decreased. Students are much more aware of their responsibility to regulate their own behavior, as well as the behavior of their peers.
Developing an awareness of the effective use of mediation among students, teachers, staff, parents and community has been strengthened with the help of another program at the school. The Youth Development Project (YDP) encourages the use of appropriate social skills for effective communication. Incorporating YDP with Peer Mediation has been essential to the success of creating a more peaceful school-work environment that facilitates and enhances the educational experience at Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School.
To choose mediation in order to resolve conflict means cultural values, such as laulima, ho'omau, malama, and lo'kahi have been integrated into the school and the community. It affords individuals the opportunity to make relationships pono. Thus the spirit of ho'oponopono and aloha is clearly alive at Waimanalo School as these values are being linked and shared within the school and among the larger community.