Central European Students Join the Peace Party

Mikhala and workshop participants

14 Central European students from Serbia, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, and 4 Shawnee Mission, KS students came to Graceland University, across the street from the Community Mediation Center (CMC), on Wednesday, July 18th for a three hour workshop on prejudice, stereotypes and conflict resolution.

What made this an extraordinary workshop for me was, not only getting to interact with these interesting, well-spoken, passionate students, but also the fact that I co-created and delivered the workshop with my 23 year old daughter Mikhala.

A month earlier, Marie Osterhaus from the Kansas City International Visitor’s Center (KCIVC), contacted our office looking for diversity training, not something we regularly offer.  The International Visitor’s Center engages with an organization called the Meridian International Center, Youth Leadership Program with Central Europe, in Washinton, D.C., to organize experiences and trainings for students.  Mikhala planned to be home, during the time they requested for the training, for a month- long visit.  Mikhala is an experienced workshop facilitator (animator) in Montreal, Quebec, working with the Tolerance Foundation in high schools throughout the province.

Together, Mikhala and I researched, planned, created materials and practiced the workshop. The morning of the workshop began with a look at individual identity, and the values that define us.  A spirited discussion arose about a group that is discriminated against and considered outside of normal society in most of Central Europe.  The students shared personal incidences that confirmed stereotypes and experiences that broke stereotypes.  After a break, where they ate everything in sight, we focused on brain research and some conflict resolution skills, feeling words vocabulary, observation vs. judgment and paraphrasing.  They were engaged and respectful, even while challenging the usefulness of some of the concepts.

Each day a student is selected to blog their experiences for the day.  That day, Veronika Cibulkova wrote about her experience.  You can read her wonderful blog post at ylpce.tumblr.com find the post entitled “So you are irritated because…”

Watching my daughter, engaged and excited, bringing concepts of social justice and inclusion to other young people was incredible.  Interacting with this particular group of students was an experience I will always cherish.  Spending the morning with my daughter and all of the other young adults in the room, I gained something huge – hope and inspiration.  To quote Veronika’s post, “their zeal for change, their passion for defending their point is enriching…”  Welcome to the Peace Party!

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