Peace Learning Center serves the community
This Friday, the Peace Learning Center will be taking part in the Our Beloved Community Festival, an event held in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. as part of an ongoing vision to work within the local community.
The festival is one part of a much larger outreach effort. “We want to be an Indianapolis-based not-for-profit that has national and international scope, but that is primarily based in the Indianapolis community to help build a culture that we can all be proud of,” said Tim Nation, PLC founder and executive director.
One way they are working towards this goal is through daily peace facilitation programs at their site in Eagle Creek. Adam Barnes, the director of peace education for Eagle Creek, sees the program as “more proactive, rather than reactive. A lot of conflict-resolution and peace-building programs are through the legal system. It’s people who’ve committed crimes being forced to be there. What we do is try to educate the youth before they commit crimes.”
In fact, almost 80 percent of program participants are youth, with the remaining 20 percent targeting adults in the lives of these youth. “Most of our programs work through schools, community programs and faith-based youth programs,” Nation said. “We’ve also been working with middle and high schools to cultivate youth leadership programs, where we’re working on a peer facilitation model.”
The program, which is approaching its 10th anniversary, has grown from six staff members and three Americorps service volunteers to a staff that includes 36 full-time members, 11 staff members and 25 Americorps volunteers.
The assistance from Americorps, a domestic service program, has been invaluable, providing over 250 individuals since the PLC began. “Americorps gives community groups full-time people to do service for a year. The program is designed by us, and we bring in the Americorps members to be hired and trained, then enrolled for a year at a time,” Nation said. In turn, this may help keep talent within the city. “We’re hoping to reverse this brain drain of young people from the community. We’re giving them a year to work within our community and a lot of them come out as social workers and teachers who stay in Indianapolis,” Nation said.
Elyse Chudzynski is one such member. Enrolled through Americorps, she has worked with the PLC since August as a peace education facilitator. “It’s a great resource because you meet a number of people who are in the non-profit field. All the Americorps members are in this unique place in life where they’re doing service for a year or two, then have to move on. So in a couple years I’ll know 20 different people in 20 different places,” Chudzynski said.
Chudzynski works directly with youth, teaching them skills for conflict-resolution. “We facilitate by using a lot of questions, usually things they know the answers to. It’s not so much about feeding them answers as it is teaching them how to use what they know,” Chudzynski said.
One example of this is the I Message. Students are given a formula that allows them to voice their feelings in a non-aggressive manner, leading to better communication. It is the facilitator’s job to “give them the tools to communicate their points of view in a way that won’t lead to conflict,” Chudzynski said.
In addition to teaching students, Barnes pointed out the material needs to be part of a larger curriculum, one that involves both teachers and community members. “Our goal is to not just have one student take it to heart, but to get in there with the entire classroom environment and create that cultural change within the classroom or school community. They should feel supported in speaking up in a positive light. I think in so many classes, and so many schools, that’s looked upon as the weak thing to do. So it’s about giving them the skills, but also the environment where it’s positive to use them and they have that support,” Barnes said.
This environment can come from both people within the school system and from without. Besides staff and Americorps members, the PLC also needs support from the public. “We love having volunteers, whether it’s time spent facilitating with a program or working behind the scenes from an administrative point. A volunteer could help us in developing a curriculum or just helping keep the house clean, but we always need support,” Barnes said.
Nation also recognized the importance of volunteers. “We have a group that helps with special events, helps with programming that’s going on. And we always have opportunities for people to volunteer as facilitators, lead nature hikes or make a lunch. We also need more community support financially.”
Those interested in helping should visit the Our Beloved Community Festival this weekend to speak with PLC staff, and are also invited to e-mail Adam Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the center at 317-327-7144.
Our Beloved Community Festival
Saturday, Jan. 13, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Christian Theological Seminary, 1000 W. 42nd St., Butler Campus, Indianapolis
• Angels in Disguise, step praise and worship team
• Power of Peace Award: Olgen Williams
• Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. presentation and poster kick off
Cafeteria and Common Room
Pizza and drinks
MAIN STAGE PERFORMERS
12:30: The Philosophy
1:30: Indiana Reggae Band
Poetry and spoken word with Blair Karsch and T.J. Reynolds
Art-making with the IMA
25 festival exhibitors
12:30-1:30 p.m.: Angels in Disguise presentation