Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Finding Common Ground


A couple of months ago I was filling my water bottle at the water cooler in Tulane Center for Public Service’s lobby and picked up a postcard advertising a training on community mediation. I was naturally interested and after reading the breif blurb advertising the training was excited to learn more about the upcoming training. As a VISTA my financial resources are limited, so I was even more excited to read the very small print letting me know that there were scholorships available!

Well after tucking the card into my planner it made its way to the bottom of my pile of papers and, although the training was always in the back of my mind, I did no furthr research or info gathering for a while. Finally, when I realized I needed to bite the bullet and organize my planner and work bag, I quickly googled the name of the organization hosting the training, Community Mediation Services New Orleans, and  quickly perused the site. With a twinkle in my eye and a jauntyness to my key strokes, I sent an email to the generic info@cmsnola.org address requesting more information on the training and scholorship opportunitities available. After sitting by my computer refreshing my email every three minutes all day the next day and then again the following morning, I decided to call and follow up. My call paid off and I had a fantastic conversation with Mr. David Zalkind, the Interim Executive Director! To make a long story short, David helped me to secure a full scholorship to the training!

I am so excited to have had the chance to learn from the best and now continue learning new skills and practice by becoming an apprentice and volunteer community mediator with CMS NOLA!

Mediation is a really informal process where two parties that are having a dispute can come together and have a conversation and work at reconciling their differences. The mediators are neutral third parties who help facilitate the conversation, but do not take sides or make decisions for the parties involved. It is a confidential, judgement free, and most importantly VOLUNTARY process.

The training was amazing. Brad Heckman, founder and CEO of the New York Peace Institute came down to New Orleans to be our Yoda and teach us his Jedi master ways. For five days, 20 of my fellow peacekeepers and I learned how to be ‘dumb and curious’ mediators while building friendships and bonds that can only come through spending 5 days together laughing, crying, learning, growing, and hoping for a brighter future.

I am so excited to help bring the art of mediation to the city of New Orleans! If you think that you or someone you know would benefit from learning more about this service, please check out the CMS NOLA website at www.cmsnola.org or call 504-517-3383.


4 comments on “Finding Common Ground

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    • skjerli4
      January 2, 2017

      Thank you so much for reading it!

  2. Jack Styczynski
    December 12, 2016

    Congratulations! You and my former Tulane VISTA roommate Tom would be able to talk for hours. 🙂

  3. Emery Graham
    November 26, 2016

    Wonderful find and follow up Sara. I hope your newly acquired skills and insights find themselves employed making our VISTA experience even more fantastic. Can’t wait to see you in action; ’cause I will be looking to see.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on November 25, 2016 by in VISTA Field Reports.



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