During the first week of June, POWER-PAC leaders held two events to cultivate peace in the Chicago Public Schools. On June 4th, POWER-PAC’s Elementary Justice Campaign committee hosted a Principal Breakfast with principals from several Chicago south and west side elementary schools during which Parent Peacemakers explained what restorative justice is and how it can be used instead of punitive school discipline. They also shared stories of the success of using restorative justice to keep students in school.
Mr. Ernesto Mathias (above), the principal of Wells Community Academy, where COFI and POWER-PAC parents run a Peace Center, also testified that restorative justice has an effect both on the school itself and “in our kids … outside of the school building.” The peace center model, “says our kids are intelligent and we can sit down with them and teach them conflict resolution skills that they can take with them.”
Then, on June 6th, Wells peacemakers, parents, and students co-hosted a Peace March in the community around Wells school. At the march, Peacemakers revealed a banner in honor of Angel Alvarez, the son of longtime POWER-PAC leader and Peacemaker, Felipa Mena. Angel was killed four summers ago by street violence and inspired Felipa to work to get a Peace Center at Wells High School, where Angel had attended. Since then, the Peace Center at Wells has worked intensively with more than 150 students, giving the school an alternative to punitive discipline and helping students stay in school.
The Peace Center is funded by a grant from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Juvenile Division as a violence prevention effort and received a special donation this year from the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation in honor of Angel and his mother Felipa.