Pacoima School Fears Losing Successful Conflict Resolution Program

Once overrun with gang violence, Maclay Middle School is thriving thanks in part to a threatened peer mediation program

By Kathy Vara and James Hourani
|  Tuesday, Jun 4, 2013  |  Updated 7:24 AM PDT
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Once overrun with gang violence, Maclay Middle School is thriving thanks in part to a  peer mediation program that teaches students how to resolve conflict without violence. The school's principal said that the program has helped transform the school and fears what will happen if it can't come up with $75,000 to fund it next year. Kathy Vara reports from Pacoima for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 3, 2013.

Kathy Vara

Once overrun with gang violence, Maclay Middle School is thriving thanks in part to a peer mediation program that teaches students how to resolve conflict without violence. The school's principal said that the program has helped transform the school and fears what will happen if it can't come up with $75,000 to fund it next year. Kathy Vara reports from Pacoima for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 3, 2013.

advertisement

When Principal Veronica Arreguin first came to Maclay Middle School in Pacoima, it was overrun by gangs.

“There were plenty of lockdowns. I was afraid for students’ safety,” Arreguin said.

Located in one of the toughest gang neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley, Arreguin has quelled violence at the school, thanks in part to a peer mediation program that teaches students to resolve conflict in a non-violent way.

The school is in jeopardy of losing the program when it’s private funding ends this year. Principal Veronica Arreguin said the $75,000 that covers the salary of the counselor and supplies is money well spent.

“I’m always afraid of the program going away. What do I do then?” Arreguin said.

Since Maclay students began learning how to resolve their own disputes with words instead of fists, grades and attitudes have improved. Everything discussed in mediation is kept private.

“The reason why our students resorted to responding with violence, which is fighting, is because they didn’t have the words to express emotions,” Arreguin said.

Mediation counselor Lauro Cons helps students understand that conflicts are a part of life.

“We teach them conflict resolution skills, positive communication skills,” Cons said.

Under Cons' guidance, peer mediators encourage students to talk out their differences, to listen and understand.

Whether it is name calling or bullying, the student mediators are trained to help find a solution. And it’s working.

“We are not the judge,” eighth grader Alejandro Juarez said. “We stay in the middle – neutral.
Classmate Aliwah Bowman agreed.

“We don’t tell them what they should do. We don’t give out advice,” Bowman said. “We just help them come up with way they think they should solve the problem.

“The school used to have a lot of fights and a lot of problems when I was in sixth grade, and now there are barely any,” the eighth grader added.

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: iPhone/iPad App | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | RSS | Text Alerts | Email Alerts

Get the latest headlines sent to your inbox!
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Leave Comments
What's New
Running Dry
Coverage of the California drought. Read more
Follow Us
Sign up to receive news and updates that matter to you.
Send Us Your Story Tips
Check Out