Choosing the Peaceful Path

A Marquette peace program helps Milwaukee teens manage conflicts that derail high school Careers.

When Tamyah Jackson, a sophomore at Banner Preparatory School in Milwaukee, feels conflict bubbling with a peer, she leans on lessons she learned in Peace Works, a program of Marquette University’s Center for Peacemaking. “Walk out. Take a deep breath,” Jackson explains. “Fighting is not the answer.”

It’s a message of nonviolence that Peace Works has promoted since its founding in 1997 by then Marquette theology professor Dr. Michael Duffey. The program now operates in seven Catholic and public secondary schools in the city, cultivating skills in conflict resolution, peer mediation, social-emotional learning and other peace-building strategies. At Banner Prep
— one of three behavioral reassignment schools affiliated with the Milwaukee Public Schools system that participates in Peace Works — the program is helping students who may have been expelled or removed from their traditional school for a serious disciplinary infraction.

Peace Works partners with schools, providing the curriculum and allocating program staff and resources to help teach students about gratitude, responsibility and empathy, along with other social and emotional development skills. The end goal is to effect change in students, schools — and ultimately Milwaukee communities — by teaching youth methods to cope with their emotions productively and resolve conflict nonviolently. It’s hard to imagine objectives aligning any better with the Klingler College’s Center for Peacemaking as it pursues Marquette’s mission to Be The Difference and finds contemporary relevance in Catholic and Jesuit traditions of social justice, service and peace promotion.

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Outcomes of Peace Works-enrolled students at the behavioral reassignment schools are especially promising … with recent data showing most students developing more positive views of peaceful solutions to conflicts … .

Outcomes of Peace Works-enrolled students at the behavioral reassignment schools are especially promising, says program coordinator Lynn O’Brien, with recent data showing most students developing more positive views of peaceful solutions to conflicts after completing the curriculum. Their suspension and attendance records are also improving.

Patrick Kennelly, Arts ’07, Grad ’13, director of the Center for Peacemaking, sees Peace Works playing a vital role with youth “in a city where violence and trauma are major obstacles to creating a culture of health.” The program also gives six to eight Marquette students the opportunity to help teach the Peace Works curriculum each year. Says Kennelly, “It’s helping on many different levels and, at the end of the day, it’s a laboratory of what collaboration can look like.”

— BY MELANIE LAWDER, COMM ‘14

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Adapted from the second issue of A&S, the annual magazine of Marquette’s Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. Read the entire issue.

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