Nicholas, Ryan, and I (NC4RJ staff) arrived a day before the five youth/adult school teams from across the state of Washington (Michael joined the following day), our cars filled with six excited and focused youth interns from Open Doors High School in Federal Way, Bellevue Big Picture High School, and Gibson EK Big Picture High School in Issaquah: Simone, Jay, Dominika, Eleanor, Kelly and D’Monica. These youth interns, along with 6 others, had spent every Thursday for the past year diving head first into Restorative Justice, working to implement practices in their schools, and planning for this event.
In fact, most of the conference was organized and facilitated by these dynamic/intelligent/hilarious/passionate young adults They organized into work teams, created the agenda and schedule, acted as camp ‘hosts’ and facilitated workshops on RJ prevention, intervention, implementation, and issues surrounding LGBT identities, race and socioeconomic status.
And they knocked it out of the park! Every adult who attended the conference spoke glowingly about the impact these youth had on their experience at the conference. They were impressed with their authenticity, their bravery, confidence and independence and their ability to speak articulately about restorative justice and what it can look like and do for schools. One adult expressed to the group at our closing circle, “Listening to you interns inspired me examine my own life more deeply.”
The goal of the conference was to provide school teams with a deep dive experience provide teams with tools and practices and based on feedback, that all happened. But the real good stuff? The stuff that makes the magic? The stuff that makes the greatest impact? Actual real human connections!
“I actually made like real friends here and I wasn’t expecting that.” One of the interns said. A sentiment that was echoed by a number of youth and adults at the closing reflection circle.