By Akeem Ivory
Producer, actor and director Forest Whitaker on Sept. 6 announced the launch of the Domestic Harmonizer program, a partnership between the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative and Cal State Dominguez Hills, at Andrew Carnegie Middle School in Carson.
Whitaker, a Carson native, attended school in nearby Compton, where he was bullied and threatened in junior high. His inability to handle these conflicts is what lead to the creation of the WPDI initiative and the Domestic Harmonizer Program.
The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, or WPDI, is a non-governmental organization founded by Whitaker in 2012. The organization’s goal is to nurture a new generation of youth leaders committed to peaceful conflict resolution.
The Domestic Harmonizer Program is aimed at giving middle school students the necessary skills to handle conflicts, with a strong belief that doing so will reduce youth violence.
For the next three years, Carnegie Middle School, chosen due to enthusiasm for the program from Principal Cheryl L. Nakata, will serve as a model for the program, with plans for expansion to other schools in Los Angeles and potentially, across the nation.
“We had great buy-in from the faculty and the administration,” said John Davis, dean of the College of Education at CSUDH, “and the school had a program that was similar to ours that laid great groundwork for us.”
The program hopes to integrate conflict resolution education with Common Core State Standards in math, science, social studies and English.
The aim is to give students and teachers an opportunity to tackle youth violence, bullying and other issues, and ways to create a peaceful school climate.
In addition, the CSUDH Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding (NCRP) program will be a key component involved in this project.
The program provides students with a theoretical understanding of human conflict, while acquiring practical skills and techniques to resolve disputes in a wide variety of circumstances.
The program will be broken into three parts: general conflict resolution skills in the sixth grade, peer mediation in the seventh grade and restorative justice in the eighth grade.
“This is a program that I have envisioned for years,” Whitaker said, according to PRWeb. “To me, conflict resolution is an essential life skill that is best learned during the formative middle school years.
“Finding solutions to our problems, however, big or small, is something that isn’t always taught in school as a part of the traditional curriculum, but it is one of the most important subjects.”
Throughout the academic year, WPDI and CSUDH will provide technical assistance to teachers as they implement the program. An independent evaluator from CSUDH will then assess its performance.