W e cozied up in our relaxing chairs positioned in a medium-sized room in Kanter Hall of Ohio University. Unique teenagers and adults surrounded me, all with distinct personalities joined together by one main thing: a glowing red shirt labeled “Hocking.Athens.Perry Community Action 2014 Athens Summer Youth Program.”
The room was filled with silence for only a moment or two before Mara Giglio, Director of Appalachian Peace and Justice Network, and Vickie Ball-Seiter, Trimble Project Coordinator, reached out with warming voices and suggested a quick game of 20 questions.
This game did just as it was expected – it opened the participants up to one another, making them feel more comfortable and prepared for the events to follow.
Next on the list: conflicts and listening.
Athens Area Mediation Service has joined with the Hocking Athens Perry Community Action Summer Youth Employment Program to spread knowledge of conflict resolution among the young adults of Trimble Township and surrounding cities.
HAPCAP Summer Youth Employment Program workers range from 14-24 years old and are currently the main focus of the Athens Area Mediation Service’s Trimble Project. This project aims to build healthier communication skills and understanding within our youth today. A total of eight Friday sessions have occurred.
“The goal is to get people thinking about conflict and ways that they may respond to make things better,” said John Schmieding, director of Athens Area Mediation Service.
Schmieding, Giglio and Ball-Seiter work with the young women and men by discussing ways to avoid poor communication and harmful arguments through healthy habits like active listening. “Listening and trying to understand each other are two of the big things,” said Ball-Seiter.
Giglio referred to the program as a method of “breaking the cycle” of improper listening and communicational techniques.
After discussing appropriate listening etiquette, the group engaged in interesting games of “lost island” and “the big wind blows.” Both of these games served as great opportunities for the kids to begin practicing their newfound listening skills while continuing to learn more about one another’s interests and commonalities.
“I like it. It was interactive,” said Kyler Young, a Trimble Project participant. “The people were interesting to meet, there were a lot of people here and I’d do it again.”
To finish off the Friday session, the youth discussed bullying and other serious matters in small groups. Groups confided in one another about their own personal encounters with bullies, or even moments when they themselves were a bully. Fantastic conversations stemmed off of this main topic, leading to a great ending to a productive morning.
Athens Area Mediation Service plans to revisit a few of the groups they have met with this summer. This will provide opportunity for the kids to delve deeper into conflict resolution while beginning to think of themselves as leaders in the community, said Schmieding.
In the spring of 2014, Athens Foundation granted Athens Area Mediation Service $1,698 to help fund the Trimble project.
The HAPCAP Summer Youth Employment Program is currently funded by Athens County Job and Family Services.
This article was written on behalf of the Athens Foundation.