In the fall of 2014, Calvin Christian School in South Holland, Illinois, implemented a Peacemakers program. Fifth graders are trained in peacemaking skills in order to help all students resolve conflicts.
“I was noticing most of the fifth grade students lacked confidence, certainty, and true understanding of their God-ordained purpose,” said Latrice Oglesby, the school’s counselor. “Instead of allowing them to try to sort through and figure this out on their own, we created the Peacemakers program. Peacemakers is an anti-bullying and leadership program, but it has also become that moment where students who are entering puberty/pre-adolescence can find their way.”
Each year, fifth graders can apply, and between seven and ten students are chosen for the program. The Peacemakers give up lunch and recesses twice a week for seven weeks of training with Oglesby and her intern. The students study the five As: admit, apologize, accept consequences, ask forgiveness, and alter behavior. Then they put their training into action on the K-second grade playground.
“Peacemakers learn how to resolve conflicts, assist others, and trust themselves all at the same time,” said Oglesby. “It continues to amaze me how much these students grow as God's young leaders, equipped to conquer! We work really hard at them tapping into and pulling out of themselves key characteristics needed as leaders in life. We walk with them through the journey, in fun and creative ways, assisting them in finding their true selves and being able to continue to blossom.”
“At Calvin we intentionally seek opportunities to be connected across the grade levels,” said Randy Moes, the school’s principal. “We have seen the power of an older child speaking into and caring for a younger child. We also have a playground where students get into conflicts: conflicts that, when worked through, help our students grow.”
The program has changed the school’s culture, and its students, in a variety of ways, according to Moes. “We see older students given opportunities to lead and giving them a stronger, positive voice among their peers. We see younger students especially receptive to what their older peers want to help them through. We see older students not just being Peacemakers, but also playmakers, helping younger students who struggle to initiate or engage in play on their own. As our Peacemaker alum are now in middle school, we see them stepping up in different positive leadership roles there as well.”
The school’s tagline is: Faith. Learning. For life. The Peacemakers’ motto is: God's young leaders, equipped to conquer, who possess the ability to confess, forgive, and repent as evidenced through strength courage, wisdom, discipline, and faith. “This program,” said Moes, “is our tagline in action.”