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Safeguarding Our Schools 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 3:04:21 PM

We are all scrambling for answers to the terrifying events which took place last week in Newtown, Connecticut.  Many schools are ramping up security by adding significant numbers of security personnel and purchasing expensive equipment. Students are being moved inside the main buildings of campuses rather than being schooled in annexes or portable buildings.  Many parents are keeping their children at home.  Some schools are even arming their faculties with guns.  There is no question that we must provide safe, secure learning environments for our children; however, these “knee-jerk” reactions are not conducive to providing a long term answer.  Indeed, many of our children will be unable to learn or thrive, living in an atmosphere of fear, however, reacting without considering all options is not going to change the environment or ease the minds of parents, students or educators.

paxUnited has at least part of the solution that will provide more of an answer than the actions currently being undertaken.  Our “Safeguarding Our Schools (S.O.S.)” program offers presentations to faculty, students, parents and communities, which will provide insights into the signs and symptoms of the potential perpetrator of events such as what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary.  Additionally, we offer an onsite “hardening- the –target” analysis of your current plans, policies and school plants.

There is no doubt that we must act to prevent these tragedies.  But we must not sacrifice our children’s sense of safety nor a healthy learning environment to put a bandaid on an issue that requires much more.

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$400 Million Available Through the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 4:35:01 PM

The U.S. Department of Education has released the RFP for the Race to the Top district competitive grant. Fifteen to 25 awards will be made before the end of the year. Awards will start at $5 million for the smallest districts up to the $40 million cap.

 

You must complete the "Intent to Apply" for this grant by August 30, 2012. Applications are due October 30, 2012.  Click HERE to access the online Intent to Apply Form.
 

One of the priorities in this grant competition is to improve school climate and insure that it provides appropriate learning conditions for students. This grants will provide financial support for programs that create safe, healthy and caring learning environments for students in our country. 

 

paxUnited's evidence-based Peers Making Peace program has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a promising program as well as by OJJDP as a Model Program, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention as an Exemplary Program, NREPP as a Legacy Program and is a 2012 Character Education Partnership (CEP) Promising Practices Award Winner.

 

KEY DATES

  • Technical Assistance Webinar: August 21, 2012
  • Intent to Apply Due: August 30, 2012
  • Application Due Date: October 30, 2012
  • Grant Awards: December 2012

If you would like to learn more about  Race to the Top, the application is available for download here

We would like to work with you in garnering this award and helping you to better provide the best possible school climates for your students and staff. Should you like our help in applying for this funding, please do not hesitate to contact us.  

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Promising Practices in Character Education Announced for 2012 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 2:12:35 PM

Washington, DC – The Character Education Partnership (CEP) has recognized two practices – Peers Making Peace (PMP) and Positive Action Center (PAC) – from the organization paxUnited, located in the North Texas area as 2012 Promising Practices.

CEP awarded 297 Promising Practices to schools, districts, and organizations from across the United States, as well as from Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, and Mexico.

Peers Making Peace

paxUnited has helped over 10,000 schools, juvenile justice settings, and community-based organizations establish effective peer-led mediation programs by providing training and technical assistance in the Peers Making Peace (PMP) model. Available in age appropriate curricula for grades pre K-12, PMP trains selected participants, including 1 existing staff member and 16-24 youth demographically representative of the school or site, in the PMP program. The comprehensive three-day training is largely experiential and highly interactive. In addition to introducing and enhancing critical mediation skills, participants learn and practice fairness, self-discipline and interpersonal skills. Trained mediators use their new knowledge to help peers resolve conflicts and reduce school distractions.

The program is easily replicable, applicable to all youth environments, self-sustainable and affordable. By exhibiting non-judgmental care and respect for others on their campus, the mediators model behavior that easily rubs off on their peers, having a dramatic impact on the school culture. Moreover, as students do the bulk of the work in resolving their peers’ conflicts, teachers can concentrate on teaching and students can concentrate on learning.

Positive Action Center

The Positive Action Center (PAC) program is available in age appropriate curricula for grades 6-12 and utilizes students already on campus to bring positive change to their school. Selected participants, including 1 existing staff member and 16-24 youth demographically representative of the site, will be trained in the two-day training that is participatory and highly interactive. Through the training, participants will take part in activities that will help them understand and develop specific communication, problem-solving and decision making skills. Trained mentors will meet with students who are to be mentored on a 1-to-1 basis and begin to establish a relationship with them. Speaking at some length about the mentored student’s current situation and his/her feelings and thoughts about it, the two work collaboratively to develop an action plan for resolving whatever is interfering with the mentored student’s success in school and, with the help of the mentor, the student takes responsibility for that success.

 

PAC is a peer-driven process built on a foundation of empowering one’s peers to actively resolve their own difficulties through the development of communication, problem-solving, and anger-management skills, thus developing self-efficacy and relying less and less on others.

“These practices showcase so many creative and unique ways of dealing with challenges educators face each day” said Lisa Greeves, Manager of the Promising Practices program. “CEP is proud to recognize these educators and to give them an international platform upon which to share their hard work.”

This year’s winning practices include unique anti-bullying programs, successful integration of academics and character, self-motivation and goal-setting strategies, service-learning activities, and community outreach. 

CEP’s 2012 National and International Promising Practices in Character Education represent:

  • 5 nations
  • 30 states and the District of Columbia – with the largest numbers from Missouri (107), New Jersey (31), New York (15), and Kansas (13)
  • 209 public schools, 18 charter schools, 15 private schools, 12 school districts, and 4 youth-serving organizations.   

CEP sponsors the annual program to showcase innovative best practices that are having an impact across the nation and abroad. CEP encourages educators with similar needs to learn from and even replicate these successful initiatives. CEP will honor the 2012 recipients at the 19th National Forum on Character Education, to be held in Washington, DC, November 1 – 3. Learn more by searching CEP’s database of Promising Practices.

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Stepping Up 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 2:46:32 PM

By Kristin Jones, Associate Executive Director & Cary Trout, Senior Training Specialist

            paxUnited trainers have recently developed a training that will empower some select students of Duncanville High School to bring peace and wellbeing to their school and district. The high school Peer Mediators, the officers of the Student Council and the Safe School Ambassadors joined together and participated in a one-day training where they began a battle against bullying and intolerance.

Broken up into three steps, the training first consisted of an educational piece where information and statistics were shared and discussed regarding bullying, cyberbullying, hazing and dating violence. The second step of this training was centered on communication and listening skills building. The participants discussed the necessity of positive communication and the importance of being able to effectively communicate with others, even while in the throes of conflict. After all, what we do not talk out, we will act out.

Finally, the students took to their feet in a number of activities where the ideas discussed earlier and the skills developed previously were put into use. These activities have at their core positive messages of tolerance, understanding, inclusion and teamwork. Some of the activities shed light on the experience of being on either side of the bully problem and the feelings encountered by the individual because of it. Others emphasize the importance, the understanding and the acceptance of diversity as avenues to both more positive social interactions as well as a more peaceful social climate.

As mentioned, this training put into motion an effort by Duncanville High School students to bring positive change to the rest of their school district. The next step is for the high school students to take these activities mentioned to the students in the elementary, intermediate, and middle schools throughout their district. They will spend some time with their younger counterparts and carry out the activities just as the paxUnited trainers did with them, keeping the purpose and message of the activities intact.

These students understand that bullying related behavior affects everyone. The learning process and student relationships both suffer greatly as a result. They have also come to the realization that changing the social climate and the social norms of the district with regards to bullying related violence requires the efforts of everyone in the entire environment. It is this training coupled with their efforts to team up with the other schools in the district that are real evidence that Duncanville High School is stepping up against the bully problem.

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In the Face of Adversity 

Thursday, January 5, 2012 2:54:17 PM

By Kristin Jones, Associate Executive Director & Cary Trout, Senior Training Specialist

 

A seemingly routine training at a school in the Dallas area quickly became more extraordinary than expected, and has a couple of our trainers referring to it as one of their fondest and most inspiring moments in recent training history.

In the Temperature Reading portion of the training where students begin and continue to develop lasting bonds and friendships with one another, one of the students shared that recently many members of his family have been exposed to the deadly drug cartel-related violence along the U.S./Mexico border. As the trainers were shocked in hearing the details of his story, many of the other student participants were not at all surprised. What’s more, many of them shared similar stories in which members of their own families had also been directly exposed to the violence. 

Stories about the cartel-related violence are frequent in the recent news, like this Yahoo News article about drug cartels recruiting Texas children. These stories paint a bleak picture about the state of lawlessness near the U.S./Mexico Border. On the other hand, experiences like the one our trainers had at this particular school help shed a more positively optimistic light on these events. Within the walls of this school are students who are directly affected by the violence taking place around the U.S./Mexico border. Instead of allowing this violence to negatively impact them, these students rise above the violence and work to establish a peaceful environment at their school on a daily basis by serving as peer mediators. We are astounded by the sheer gravity of the challenges these students and their families face daily considering the current political and economic climates, and the respective struggles. However, we are more amazed by the grace and determination they exhibit as they overcome the negative obstacles they encounter.

It shouldn’t go without saying that the PMP Program at this school has consistently been one of the best evaluated programs we have. Staff has reported a distinct drop in the severity, as well as a clear shift in the type, of discipline referrals at the school since the PMP Program has been implemented. In large part, this could not be accomplished without the dedication and ardor of the school’s program coordinators. The paxUnited trainers are astonished at their willingness to go above and beyond for this program in a time when educators are continually being asked to do more with less. In the midst of a tremendous workload, they are emphatically committed to empowering their mediators to create and foster a positive, peaceful environment in their school and community.

In the face of adversity, a truly dedicated team of peer mediators and their coordinators are doing everything they are capable of in order to positively change the social climate of their school by offering assistance and bringing peace to all those that they encounter.

We couldn’t be more proud.

 

 

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