VISTA Volunteer Expands Mediation Center’s Work With Teens

Mid Shore Community Mediation Center has significantly enhanced its capacity in the field of teen mediation thanks to the services of its VISTA volunteer, Tamara Weishaupt. She recently completed her year of service and now plans to continue working with the organization to build on the foundation she has created.

A native of Denton, Weishaupt has focused her Mediation Center efforts in Caroline County. In addition to other outreach projects, she began working with Caroline County Teen Court, where teen offenders are tried before a judge and jury of their peers.

Attending every Teen Court session, Weishaupt offers mediation as an alternative where relationship issues are involved. Whether the problem is between two teens or between a teen and parent or other adult, the Mediation Center’s Teen Mediation program allows the parties to work out their differences together, arriving at a mutually acceptable agreement.

Teen mediators ensure that the young participants feel that their voices are being heard and respected. The process creates a resolution to the conflict and also helps to preserve relationships before anger and disputes can damage them irreparably.

As the benefits of Teen Mediation are increasingly recognized within the system, Mid Shore Community Mediation Center is receiving more and more referrals from Teen Courts and Departments of Juvenile Services (DJS) within Caroline, Dorchester andTalbot Counties, the organization’s area of service. The Mediation Center currently has 14 trained teen mediators, five of whom were newly added after its most recent training session in November at Sojourner Douglass College.

Weishaupt plans to continue working with the Mediation Center now that herVISTA year is over. She will be helping Executive Director Peter Taillie to create what he sees as being a state model for Teen Mediation programs.

In addition to her work with Teen Courts, the goal is to move Weishaupt into the role of a mediation consultant, acting as liaison with State’s Attorney’s offices, schools, and DJS in all three counties. Her efforts will be supported by AmeriCorps volunteersAlwinta Lake and Connie Miller working with the Teen Courts and DJS in Dorchester and Talbot Counties, respectively.

“I really believe we can make a serious impact on suspension and dropout rates,” noted Taillie. “If we can get teens into a mediation the same day as the problem arises, the conflict can be resolved right away and the kids can get back to school. That’s so much better than suspension and keeps kids learning.”

Not only does their academic learning continue, but they are also learning that conflicts can be resolved without violence. “If teens have a positive experience, they are more likely to want to try it again,” said Weishaupt. “They can use these skills to conquer conflict at the first stages in the future.

“I’m excited to work with teens to give them the tools to resolve the conflicts that brought them to DJS and Teen Court,” she added. “These skills are a valuable asset to repairing and building their confidence, social capacity and respect for themselves and the community. This early intervention contributes to the resources already provided within the system to help teens grow towards a happy and successful future.”

For more information on mediation, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mediator, call Mid Shore Community Mediation Center at 410-820-5553 or visitwww.midshoremediation.org.

Comments