Imagine a young boy of 8 who dreams of being a star football player and running fast, but even though he tries hard he fails because of a debilitating muscular disease. Donnie Yniquez, a second grader attending Settler’s Point Elementary, has that dream and also that disease. Yet, he still has a flame of hope burning inside of him because of the outpouring of support from his school community.
The Settler’s Point students, staff, and parents all volunteered to assist Donnie in his quest to raise money for his attendance at the MDA summer camp and to fund research to fight the disease that afflicts his young body. Some support came in the form of people dressed in vibrant red, white and blue t-shirts walking alongside him in the Muscular Dystrophy Muscle Walk held Saturday March 22th at the Tempe Beach Park.
Additional support came from his peers. A school assembly on March 7th kicked off the fundraising efforts of Mr. Preble’s 6th grade class who sold bags of popcorn at lunch recess and the Hop-A-Thon sponsored by his second grade classmates. The fundraising efforts of the students combined with t-shirt sales and walk-a-thon sponsors all helped to a exceed Donnie’s goal of $2,400 and raised a grand total of $2,813. Now Donnie will be able to attend a summer camp with other youth like him.
The Settler’s Point Community has truly embraced Donnie by heeding the MDA belief that “It takes only one muscle to make a difference- A heart.”
Each day during lunch recess, a group of student volunteers go to work. A bright green t-shirt identifies them as Peace Helpers trained to facilitate conflict between students.
Settler’s Point Elementary currently has thirty-nine trained Peace Helpers who function as facilitators rather than decision makers or judges. Research indicates that peer mediation programs positively affect the school climate and reduce aggressive conflict.
Social Worker Helen Dippre comments, “It’s great to hear kids using mediation vocabulary such as ‘coming to a resolution’. The training really helps the students learn to listen to each other.”
During the first week of September students can apply to become a Peace Helper. All applications are accepted. Administrators and teachers can also suggest students who could benefit from leadership and time management skills gained through doing this work.
Training begins in October with three to four staff members assisting. The in-depth training follows these three guidelines:
Talking to the Peace Helpers is the students’ choice. If students decide to accept help from the Peace Helpers, they must agree to work hard to solve the problem.
Peace Helpers are helpers, not police officers. If there is any type of physical fighting, then the Peace Helpers do not get involved.
The Peace Helper’s job is not to solve problems for other students, but to help other students think of ways to solve problems for themselves.
Drew Putnam, Kannon Dimbatt, and Peace Helpers Zachary Dobbe, and Carson Bork
The Peace Helpers know they are doing an important job and are appreciated by the aides who have lunch duty as they refer students who are having a conflict to the Peace Helpers. Some students prefer going to a Peace Helper rather than an adult.
Dippre summed up the program this way, “The program almost runs itself because the kids know what to do.”