PRICE: A toolkit for success

Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking leads President’s Challenge-winning effort to address racism, COVID-19, barriers to online education

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By: Lauren Shaw, junior in the Diederich College of Communication and communication intern in the Office of Marketing and Communication

Patrick Kennelly is the director of Marquette University’s Center for Peacemaking. He is also the principal investigator of the project “Promoting Resiliency and Improved Coping in Education (PRICE)” — one of three winning projects as part of the President’s Challenge for COVID-19 Response.

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Center for Peacemaking Director Patrick Kennelly

Aligned with the Center for Peacemaking’s core values of making a difference through nonviolent change, PRICE seeks to shape the way online education in Milwaukee is delivered to ensure all students particularly in the Hispanic and black communities can thrive. This pilot project focuses on students at Notre Dame School of Milwaukee.

The Center for Peacemaking and a team of partnering organizations, including the College of Education and the College of Nursing at Marquette, Milwaukee Public Schools, as well as Notre Dame School of Milwaukee, are working to both evaluate the impacts systematic racism has on students and formulate strategies to better students’ mental health to maximize learning.

To do this, the team is in the beginning stages of creating a web-based toolkit called PRICE: Promoting Resiliency and Improved Coping in Education.

Having worked with Milwaukee Public Schools through its Peace Works program, Kennelly says the Center for Peacemaking has identified several unique challenges students of color face that can have a significant negative impact on their learning experience. Coupled with a quick, but necessary rollout of online classes to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus after the pandemic hit the United States in early March, the list of those challenges grew, as students from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not have in-home access to the internet and other technology necessary for virtual learning.

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Peace Works Program model of change

Kennelly’s toolkit project is a winner of this year’s President’s Challenge for COVID-19 Response. The challenge and its programming awarded grant money to three projects designed to address the community-informed focus areas of mental health and wellness, economic revitalization and health services, as they relate to the challenges presented by the pandemic. Funds were awarded to the winning projects by the university through its partnership with American Family Insurance and with continued support from Johnson Controls.

Since the beginning of March, the Center for Peacemaking has been responsive to school partners and students in need. With generous support from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation the Center was able to provide technology to students and schools. As the pandemic continues, Kennelly hopes the PRICE toolkit will be another resource for students and schools. The PRICE toolkit, Kennelly says, will add to those resources by providing guidance on how students can build skills, knowledge, behaviors, resiliency and confidence to enhance the online and hybrid education experience.

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Kennelly adds that the strong, valuable connections the Center has made with MPS over the years affirmed to him that the Center had to help the schools out in news ways amid the pandemic.

“This is our mission. It’s about the transformation of relationships, but also structures,” Kennelly says. “In this case, is it the structure of how school and education are delivered to better meet the needs and staff at our partner schools.”

Sherri Walker, assistant director of the Center for Peacemaking, who is leading the project with Kennelly, says the team, through surveys, consulted members of the Notre Dame School community, including parents, faculty and staff to get input on the topics and issues that are most important to ensure student success.

“Some of these topics included the importance of gratitude, self-esteem, student motivation, and positive communication,” Walker says.

The leadership team will guide and direct the project. A content development team will look at the Peace Works Program’s current curriculum and will add various mental health components to the toolkit. This team confirms that all the content plays an effective and simple role in giving the students the necessary elements. Lastly, the measurement and evaluation team will be the final group to scope the success and overall impact this toolkit has when used by the students.

“There has been gratitude that we not only receive at this Center, but amongst our schools, community partners, and parents. With Marquette coming to play a role, we say, how can we better the solution for systematic racism, trauma, and education within the community we are centered in?” Kennelly asks. “We need to be collaborative and engaging to the target community in order to increase the sustainability and worth of our toolkit.”

The Center for Peacemaking plans to make the PRICE toolkit available to other Milwaukee area schools and make a lasting impact on a larger population of inner-city students.

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