Albuquerque middle school students learn about conflict mediation
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A group of middle schoolers learned how they can be the ones to stop potential violence before behavior turns into something heartbreaking. For some students this lesson is already a little too close to home.
Students at Washington Middle School have already seen way too much violence and now, after going through a nationwide program – those students can be the change that their school may need.
“You choose as a community to set the standards on what’s acceptable and what’s not,” said Alexander Uballez, U.S. attorney for the district of New Mexico.
Wednesday’s session had some high profile speakers from the U.S. attorney’s office and the Department of Justice among many.
The program is a nationwide initiative called “Spirit” which stands for the “School-Student Program Identification and Resolution of Issues Together.” Its goal is to teach students how to intervene before situations turn violent.
“You’re the ones that are coming together to have tough conversations, to be brave to have hope, and I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you not for what you’re doing right now, I’m proud of you for what you’re about to do today and what you’re going to take back to your school,” said APS Superintendent Scott Elder.
Tough conversations about last year when Bennie Hargrove was shot and killed while trying to stop a bully – that violence is the reason Washington Middle School was chosen.
“At the end of the day it’s our community and if we want to make it safer it’s going to take all of us,” said Mayor Tim Keller.
The students were selected for being school leaders. The program’s goal is to have those leaders help stop violence before it escalates like this again.
“You know what needs to be done and you’re going to help us get there,” Elder said.
The round table talks lasted all day with students taking turns in small groups. Washington Middle School is the first in the school district to do this training, but organizers say they hope to spread to others soon.
“Cynicism is a choice, but hope is a better one and you Gen Z are the greatest source of my hope,” said Uballez.
This is the second time the school has done this program. The first was a smaller scale because of COVID with about 30 kids.
But organizers say they’re already getting positive feedback from that first session.