Bullying, fighting and conflicts continue to plague high schools nationwide. But Ja’Marc Allen-Henderson, a senior at the San Francisco Unified School District’s June Jordan School for Equity, has found a way to deter hostile situations and help teach others how to resolve problems without resorting to violence.
A peer mediator since his junior year, the 18-year-old graduating senior will be honored next month by Community Boards for his work in calming student issues.
The group, which in 1976 opened in San Francisco, is the nation’s oldest public conflict resolution center. Since its inception, the organization has trained over 17,000 people in San Francisco, such as lawyers, journalists, teachers, construction workers, to learn the skills to be mediators.
Allen-Henderson is the youth recipient of the annual Peacemaker Award that recognizes those who promote peacemaking and anti-violence work in the community. The Peacemaker Awards, now in its fifth year, will also honor one adult and one organization at its fifth annual Peacemaker Awards ceremony June 5.
Allen-Henderson has mediated five cases of fighting students, using conflict mediation practices he learned at school and from his grandfather, whom Allen-Henderson calls a “big advocate” for nonviolent solutions.
Problems between students, Allen-Henderson emphasized, are best solved by another student who can relate to those who are in a disagreement, rather than an adult.
“Usually there’s a disconnect between teachers and students,” the teen said. “If you do it on a peer-to-peer level, it helps ease the tension.”
Darlene Weide, executive director of Community Boards, said Allen-Henderson has served his school as both a mediator and teacher.
“He is a soft-spoken, gentle young man who is equipped with the skills to help other young people who are experiencing a dispute or conflict,” Weide said.
Upon graduation from high school this spring, Allen-Henderson plans to attend San Francisco State University, where he will study science and social justice issues.
For information about the Peacemaker Awards on June 5 or to learn more about Community Boards, visit www.communityboards.org.