Youth Peace Project provides alternative solutions to student conflicts

Eric Engelmann, Executive Director of NewBoCo, talks with Kids First Law Center, one of two startups accepted into the Social Good Accelerator.

This story is part of a series that will look at and profile each of the six startups in NewBoCo’s Fall 2018 accelerator programs.

Kids First Law Center opened in Cedar Rapids in 2005 with the goal to give children a voice in custody and divorce conflicts. Three years ago, the organization started the process of looking into ways to expand the scope of students they were helping. Last year, launched Youth Peace Project, a program that focuses on restoring relationships when conflicts occur.

Being piloted at McKinley Middle School in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, Youth Peace Project uses restorative practices to resolve conflicts that arise between students.

“We really wanted to help kids resolves conflicts who are not necessarily dealing with a divorce or custody issue at home,” said Youth Peace Project Director Arianna Eddy. “We considered how we could intervene and stop youth violence and that led us in our research to restorative justice and we launched a restorative justice initiative called the youth peace project in the Cedar Rapids community school district for middle school students.”

Since beginning the program last year, more than 90% of kids we served were able to resolve a conflict right then and there through the process, Eddy told Clay & Milk.

“What we’ve seen so far is kids are learning conflict resolution skills when they are introduced to restorative justice,” Eddy said.

Youth Peace Project was recently accepted into the inaugural cohort of NewBoCo’s Social Good Accelerator.

“NewBoCo’s Social Good Accelerator has been amazing. It’s really given us an opportunity to do some customer discovery and figure out how to best in the school system and if there are other markets out there where our service can be beneficial for kids,” Eddy said.

Currently, Youth Peace Project is looking at how to best design the program so it is most effective going forward.

“This is a perfect opportunity to think about where we want to take the project,” Eddy said. “We are assessing program design, whether we should be providing circles for schools who already have training in restorative practices or if we should be training teachers. We’re researching other programs like ours around Iowa and the country to see what other agencies like ours are doing.”