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Hartford Students Learn Nonviolent Responses To Conflict

Weaver Program Changes The Way Kids Think


August 22, 2012

HARTFORD Twenty-eight children many from Hartford have completed a special nonviolence training program at Weaver High School's Culinary Arts Academy geared toward changing the way kids respond to conflict.

All but three of the program's 31 participants received certificates and were certified as nonviolence trainers, coordinators said. The children had to take verbal and written tests and share examples of how violence has touched their lives.

Many of the children in the program have a parent or relative who is, or has been, incarcerated. Victoria Christgau, founder of the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence, which organized the training, said there is a strong need to support children with incarcerated parents "so they don't fall victim to challenges in their communities."

The program, which began July 23, was steeped in the teachings and philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Students ages 15 to 17, several of whom attend the city's public schools, were taught nonviolent responses through lectures, films, music and role-playing.

The training, which ran six hours a day, was a part of the Blue Hills Civic Association's Capital Workforce Partners Program, and the students earned money for their participation.

"The kids said they were taking it on as a summer job, but as they started learning about the nonviolence techniques, they started taking it on as a personal pursuit," said Dianne Jones, vice president of the board of directors for the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence.

By the end of the program, she said, "they looked at conflict very differently and would handle things much better. They felt they had equipped themselves with some knowledge that they would be able to use to help the community."

Christgau said some of the children who completed the program would appear as guest speakers at various speaking engagements on the topic.

Some of the kids will speak at the University of Connecticut in September and help with presentations at the city's public library locations later this year.

"I certainly hope they take away from this a new response to conflict and [know] they don't necessarily have to respond emotionally when situations of conflict arise," Christgau said. "Already some of them said they have been bringing it home and sharing it with their families. They are definitely encouraged to bring it to their schools and share it with classmates or friends."

Matt Conway, principal of the Culinary Arts Academy, said he plans to introduce some of the program's teachings into the school's curriculum this year.

"We're working to add it to the curriculum, maybe to our responsible thinking program, a language arts class or social studies," he said. "We're looking for the most appropriate place for it."

Conway said more students would benefit from the teachings.

"When I would observe the different training sessions, it excited me how much the students were engaged and appreciated this type of training," he said. "I'm very impressed with it."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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