School officials back program to help local students empower each other

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Eric Wooten knew he always wanted to help people in life, but was not quite sure how to do it.

When his aunt told him about a Peer Mediation Program at his high school, he decided to see what he could take away from it.

“Through Peer Mediation I found that there’s actually a different way that normal people can help normal people out with different situations,” said Wooten.

Now, after having graduated from Armstrong State University, he’s working as a Volunteer Coordinator at the Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire, the same organization that taught him lasting lessons in high school.

Wooten’s experience is only one example of how the Peer Mediation Program has benefited the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) over the last decade. At this point, school officials hope the impact of the program continues to grow.

“We’ve seen the difference that it’s made,” says Dr. Quentina Miller-Fields, the Director of Student Affairs for SCCPSS. “We’re training our students how to deal with conflict, how to deal with other issues that they may have, other than resorting to violence.”

Dr. Chiquetta Thompson from the Mediation Center, says that Peer Mediation training teaches students leadership, problem-solving skills, and decision-making skills in hopes of helping them become leaders in the school system.

“The main goal of the program is to provide skills for students in the school system to mediate conflict,” says Dr. Thompson.

The program is already in just about every school in Chatham County, but officials hope the program expands to all schools and even some private schools and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club.

“Our goal is 100 percent participation, and it’s not just for the school district,” says Dr. Miller-Fields. “Our goal is to make it beneficial to the entire community at large.”

“It is a great experience,” says Wooten. “It would be amazing if peer mediation was at a point where students were just doing it among themselves naturally without actually having to go those extra steps.”

Peer mediators are chosen by teachers in participating schools and then receive a 12-hour training session from the Mediation Center.

To learn more about the program, visit the website for the Mediation Center.

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