Peace Conference addresses violence

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POOLER, Ga. (WSAV) – Hundreds of people joined together at the Savannah Chatham Public Schools’ first ever Peace Conference.

The public work-shopping event addressed violence and taught kids how to “speak up.” Students said, “you can be the difference in your community.”

“You’re not alone, and your parents can help you if you just let them know and sometimes they don’t want to go straight to their parents so having workshops like this can help let them you know understand that, while we’re talking, that there’s somebody who can relate to them,” Safe Club Promise Student Mentor Jazmine Williams stated.

The Savannah Chatham County Public Schools hosted the event to teach parents and kids how to deal with trauma, violence, suicide, bullying, and other hot-topic issues. Ann Levett, the super intendent for Savannah Chatham County Public Schools, said they want to find better ways to eliminate local and national violence.

“We want really to teach students and their families, ways to deal with issues without resorting to violence and certainly with what we are seeing nationally and what we are seeing in our own backyard, we need to focus differently on how we teach those skills,” Levett said.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said bullying and violence are complicated issues that are difficult to address.

“Hurt people hurt people and sometimes they inflict pain on others because they don’t realize that they are the ones that are actually hurting as well,” Johnson said.

Williams, who is a student at Jenkens High School, said she has struggled at the hands of bullies.

“People would just come up to me touch my hair, call me names, tell me that I’m like a ‘mixed breed’ and they just didn’t want to deal with me period and I felt like I couldn’t talk to nobody because one of my parents is one race and one’s the other and I just felt like I had nobody that I could relate to, but after talking to my peers and some of my teachers, they made me understand that some people just don’t understand diversity,” Williams said.

The newly-elected mayor said he wants the community to be able to preemptively help students while they are experiencing painful situations, instead of addressing them after the fact.

“We as a community have to do a better job at being able to intersect in these young people’s lives at the point of their pain, at the part of their hurt, to help them to be able to be successful and productive,” Johnson said.

Johnson wanted to make sure his message at the conference helped the young people to know: “They are wonderfully and beautifully made. Um, they’re built uniquely, they are made with a unique mission in life, unique talents in life, um and they shouldn’t throw it away.”

Williams encouraged others to, “Be yourself and don’t let anybody change you. Step into your own uniqueness.”

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