Fighting Poverty with Passion
I started during the most hectic week possible…the very last week of Rethink’s 7 week summer program in which everyone was frantically prepping for the conclusion: the press conference. Each summer, the students and Rethink staff come together to find a topic that the students are passionate about learning and advocating. This summer’s topic was restorative justice, the concept that there are less harsh methods of punishing students than giving out suspensions and detentions. Instead, restorative justice practices promote community conferences where people in conflict discuss their problems and use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements. Students were able to learn how to facilitate and be part of community conference circles and learned that communication was the key to conflict resolution while participating in fun activities that ranged from radio broadcasting to yoga.
We had a variety of media coverage present at the conference, ranging from WTUL to the Times Picayune, and many Rethinkers were interviewed. The main audience consisted of teachers and parents from around the area and we were able to reach over 100 pledges for “holding their feet over the fire”, as in ways for them to help out Rethink in times of need.
Many of those who pledged stated that they would definitely be spreading the word of restorative justice and getting trained in its practices at the training session in October. A few of our audience consisted of out of state students as well, so it was exciting to hear them say that they were planning on starting restorative justice groups on their campus and in their cities. We actually had a New Orleans government official attend the conference as well and he stated that he would be making efforts to promote it across public schools city-wide and he was going to present the concepts at his next board meeting!
Along with the successful amount of attendees, Rethink also received a grant from the Baptist Community Ministries; they will be supporting Rethink for the next three years and will donate a total of $195,000! This was really exciting for us.
Other highlights of this month were that Rethink was able to solve its 8 year transportation problem. In the past years, the Rethink staff had to transport all students back to their homes after club and committee meetings, but no longer! Drafting up a contract with a transportation service is currently in the works.
Two major changes that will be happening are that the new ED will be chosen within the end of this week and we are taking on about 5 new staff members! Also, we’re planning on being out of our current office and into a new one by December 1st. That’s a lot of big changes in a short time! I’m really excited to have come on board when all these things are happening…that way I get a sense of what it was like and what it will be like for the next few years after I leave.
At the moment, I’m still learning and getting used to how things work but I’m slowly getting there!