Sarah Lavoie, 14, of Coventry, R.I., an eighth-grader at Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School of Coventry, helps resolve conflicts between students at her school peacefully through her role as a peer mediator. When Sarah was in seventh grade, she took a class called “Teen Issues,” which explored topics such as peer pressure and substance abuse. One of the units was about peer mediation and at its conclusion, the teacher asked Sarah if she wanted to be a peer mediator. “My teacher and guidance counselor told me that I had the right personality, was a good listener, and that they believed I would be a good peer mediator,” she said. “Their belief in me was what inspired me to get involved, because I had never felt recognized for being who I am.”
Sarah and the other chosen students undertook 21 hours of training to learn how to help when students are involved in conflict situations. She then led her fellow mediators in brainstorming ideas for a presentation to students in the school. When students are in a conflict, two peer mediators are called in to help them work together to solve the problem, she said. Mediators try to get each party to understand how the other feels, to really listen to the other side of the argument, and to try to come to a mutually acceptable resolution. “If everyone understands how the people around them feel and work it out when someone is hurt, then they can have a healthy mindset when going to school and not be distracted or stressed,” Sarah said.