Area students have been learning how to become peacemakers.
Because of this effort, the Creating Communities of Peace committee was selected as November Peacemakers of the month by the state of Minnesota's Make the Peace Campaign. The state selected its first peacemaker of the month in October and will continue to select one each month through April.
Cordelia Anderson, community outreach director of You're the One Who Can Make the Difference, said the state selected the Brainerd lakes area committee because of its level of cooperation between the schools and the community. Anderson said it is not often that a community and schools can work so well together.
"The Brainerd area did a wonderful job," she said.
Laura DeChaine, Washington Middle School, and Michelle Brekken, Cuyuna Range Elementary School, are social workers/counselors and represent the committee of 17 that was honored. The committee includes people associated with St. Joseph's Medical Center, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, Crow Wing County, churches, schools and the community.
"It is needed everywhere," DeChaine said about the awareness of being a peacemaker. "It is not a big problem with the kids here, but it is a positive thing for them and a great way to kick off the school year."
Brekken said it is their job to deal with peacemaking issues with students, and this process is ongoing. Issues they help students with include how to be a friend, how to care for others and how to deal with conflicts.
"I deal with kids on a daily basis on getting along," said Brekken.
She sees little things every day with students that show her counseling is working. She said the support she receives from the school helps continue peacemaker programs.
Brekken goes into the classrooms every week and educates first- through fourth-grade students on different issues, such as bullying, peer pressure, death and how to make good choices.
DeChaine said Washington provides certain activities pertaining to being a peacemaker. The school has an eight-day curriculum that deals with conflict resolution and peer mediation. Some of the educational needs dealing with peacemaking are in line with the state's graduation standards, said DeChaine.
DeChaine and Brekken were featured in a quarter-page ad Nov. 30 in The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press newspapers. The Brainerd committee will automatically be nominated for the state peace prize May 4.
Peace Week in the area was Sept. 25-29.
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