Today at a school-wide assembly at Andrew Carnegie Middle School, artist and social activist Forest Whitaker—the Founder and CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation—officially launched the Domestic Harmonizer Program with California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). Andrew Carnegie Middle School is in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and currently enrolls 915 6-8th grade students, all of whom will participate in the program.
The Domestic Harmonizer Program is an innovative initiative designed by WPDI and CSUDH’s Negotiation Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding program and College of Education specifically for middle schools, with the aim of nurturing a new generation of youth leaders committed to peaceful conflict resolution. This is a unique program as it integrates Conflict Resolution Education with Common Core State Standards in math, science, social studies, and English. Through this program, students and teachers will have an opportunity to practice conflict resolution skills every day, and thereby better tackle issues such as youth violence and bullying, and create a peaceable school climate. The Domestic Harmonizer Program will be implemented at Andrew Carnegie Middle School for the next three years, and will serve as a model for expansion to other schools in Los Angeles and potentially across the country.
“This is a program that I have envisioned for years,” said Forest Whitaker. “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. I am delighted to be piloting the Domestic Harmonizer Program at Andrew Carnegie Middle School with Cal State University Dominguez Hills.”
The Domestic Harmonizer Program will focus on general conflict resolution skills in the 6th grade, peer mediation in the 7th grade, and restorative justice in the 8th grade. The curriculum for the Domestic Harmonizer Program was co-designed by WPDI and CSUDH, and will be implemented in classrooms by teachers from Andrew Carnegie Middle School. In August 2016, teachers from the school attended a three-day training provided by conflict resolution experts from WPDI and CSUDH to learn about the curriculum and practice conflict resolution techniques. Throughout the academic year, WPDI and CSUDH will provide technical assistance to teachers as they implement the program. The Domestic Harmonizer Program will be assessed by an independent evaluator from CSUDH.
“This program is a trailblazing initiative in education, and it is exactly what is needed for the 21st century if we are to create a world where peace, tolerance, and understanding of differences take precedence over fear, hate, and ignorance,” said CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan. “We are honored to partner with the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative in this important endeavor to educate our youth and nurture them to become the leaders of tomorrow in peace and conflict resolution.”
Andrew Carnegie Middle School was chosen to pilot this program due to its location in Carson and the school’s strong leadership team and educators. In the past, the school had a peer mediation program, and the administration at Carnegie was eager to introduce a new program with similar goals to peacefully address conflicts on campus.
“We are extremely excited to be partnered with CSUDH and the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative to implement this one of a kind program. This innovative approach will teach our students the essential life skills of conflict resolution and peace building. Through this program, we hope that it will make a difference in our students’ lives and one day, they will make a difference in this world,” said Andrew Carnegie Middle School Principal Cheryl Nakata.