Fifty students, from grades 6 – 12 in the Neah-Kah-Nie and Tillamook school districts, attended two full school days of peer-mediation training at the Officers Mess in the Port of Tillamook Bay on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 15 and 16.
By Julius Jortner
According Marie Heimburg, coordinator of Conflict Solutions of Tillamook County, who arranged the training, the skills learned will enable these students to mediate disputes that may arise among other students.
The trainers this year were Amber Boydston, from Restorative Action Alliance in Portland, who has participated in several such yearly trainings in Tillamook, and Royal Harris, also from Portland.
The students came from four schools: 18 from Tillamook High, 13 from Tillamook Junior High, 10 from Neah-Kah-Nie High, and 9 from NKN Middle School. About three-quarters of them were girls.
For many of the activities, the group was split: high schoolers (grades 8 – 12) in the larger room and the middle schoolers (grades 6 and 7) in another room.
The students had volunteered or been recommended by a teacher or counselor. Many of them had been to similar training sessions in past years.
A Tillamook High freshman, experiencing her third year of training, told the Headlight Herald that she has not yet had a chance to do a real mediation between students in conflict, but finds “what I’m learning here has been very helpful with conflicts in my personal life.”
To which Heimburg added that many of the students who complete the training, although they might not conduct many formal “table” mediations, often find themselves mediating informally in the school hallways.
County commissioner Tim Josi, attending lunch on Oct. 15, briefly addressed the students. He described his personal involvements in civic matters and stressed how fortunate the students are to learn important interpersonal skills like active listening, skills he had had to learn later in life, on the job.
With all the students in one circle, Boydston asked each in turn to name an example of the type of conflict they expect to encounter as peer mediators. Among the topics named: bullying, punching, rumors, gossip, boyfriend-girlfriend, cheating on a test, family, misunderstandings, stereotypes, and friendship. The most often mentioned item was rumors.
Conflict Solutions of Tillamook County provides mediation services to people involved in neighbor-neighbor disputes, conflicts among family members, and to litigants in small-claims court. Most of the mediators are volunteers who have undergone appropriate state-mandated trainings.
To learn more, or to volunteer for mediation training, contact the program’s coordinator, Marie Heimburg, at [email protected] or 503-842-1812 ext 6.