Connecting and volunteering

Peace. Diversity. A creative response to conflict. These are issues Cincinnati needs desperately to work on, and there's a Cincinnati organization that's been doing so for 22 years: THE CENTER FOR P

Peace. Diversity. A creative response to conflict. These are issues Cincinnati needs desperately to work on, and there's a Cincinnati organization that's been doing so for 22 years: THE CENTER FOR PEACE EDUCATION (CPE).

Founded in 1979, CPE's mission is simple: to create safe schools and peaceful communities by teaching diversity appreciation and conflict management skills to students (kindergarten through college), parents, administrators and community organizations across Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. CPE provides training and resources to over 3,000 individuals annually. One of its most valuable resources is (you guessed it) volunteers, and opportunities for involvement abound.

Executive Director Jennifer Smith emphasizes that anyone can be a volunteer. Each potential volunteer's strengths, skills, interests and passions are considered carefully so CPE can put them to good use. There's always a need for new volunteers, Smith says, and all training sessions are accessible to people with physical disabilities.

CPE hopes to recruit more volunteers from Over-the-Rhine especially, but welcomes and invites anyone looking to volunteer.

If I were to volunteer at CPE, I could choose from a lot of opportunities. I could work as a Peace Pal, spending one hour a week with a classroom I adopt at an elementary school, reading the students a children's book that teaches a lesson in conflict management, and then facilitating an activity that reinforces the lesson. CPE would provide me with the book and the activity and training. I think being a Peace Pal would give me a welcome opportunity to reach out to young, impressionable minds who need to learn to handle conflict and embrace diversity, kids who might not get such good examples from the Cincinnati community-at-large. I also like the manageable time commitment: I could do it on my lunch hour, more or less.

If I wasn't into direct kid contact, I could help with the After-School Peace Team, a leadership opportunity for students in fifth and sixth grades to share conflict management and diversity appreciation skills, and transfer what they learn to their peers. I would help prepare materials for the students' presentations, arts projects and program planning. I could do this after work and still be home in time for supper.

If I wanted to work with students beyond sixth grade, I could pair with a trainer in the High School Peer Mediation program, which helps students facilitate a conflict resolution session utilizing a six-step problem-solving process. I could also work with teachers, administrators and parents in Cooperative Discipline, which teaches how to identify why a child is misbehaving and provides practical, constructive strategies for addressing that misbehavior.

I could also help with the upcoming Teen Leadership Forum, which will focus on getting teens to create a dialogue about what's happening in our city and develop an Action Peace Plan. Folks would dedicate one day a month to activate the plan to serve or change the community regarding diversity and non-violence. Cool, huh?

I missed out on volunteering for CPE's Summer Peace Camp where CPE and 60 students from across Cincinnati worked for three weeks, composing postcards to City Council members, outlining students' vision for peace and exploring diversity and conflict issues. I'd like to know if City Council members wrote back to the students and, if so, what visions they shared.

So maybe I want to volunteer to work with adults (teachers, parents, community groups), maybe young children, maybe teens, maybe college students. I dunno. One thing's for sure: I want to see peace and diversity acceptance given a chance, and I think CPE is a great vehicle to get them in the front door of this "members only" city.

Give it a try, volunteer some time and tell me what you think. Peace. Contact The Center For Peace Education at 513-221-4863.

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