JEP: Peace begins right down the street at Norwood Elementary

$325,000 state grant funds Peace Games, a comprehensive violence prevention program
USC students will play an important role in a violence prevention program that starts this summer at Norwood Street Elementary School.

A $325,000 state grant awarded in March will fund a three-year project called Peace Games, a comprehensive peace and justice education program that teaches and supports students to be peacemakers.

Whether engaging children in games that help them resolve problems without rancor or helping organize a photo essay depicting the University Park neighborhood, USC students are as integral to the project as the K-5 students they will teach.

Undergraduates in the peace and conflict class taught by international relations professor Laurie Brand will receive academic credit for teaching youngsters to resolve conflicts peacefully, said Richard Cone, director of USC’s Joint Educational Project.

JEP, Norwood, the Southwest Division of the Los Angeles Police Department and a number of community organizations, clinics and health providers collaborated on the grant application, "providing an excellent example of how university-community partnerships can and should work," Cone said. "We are currently working with a small-scale summer project to test the program using available USC students." The program will be officially launched in the fall.

Participation in the project will link USC classrooms to the real world, increasing, for example, a student’s ability to compare peace attempts in Kosovo and other parts of the world with peace efforts at the local level, Cone said.

"If students do not understand how they can contribute to peace at Norwood, what can they hope to understand about the Middle East or Bosnia?" he asked. "Through their participation in this program, they just might be able to positively impact a child’s life, as well as their own."

The large number of college volunteers who will commit to teaching the Peace Games curricula at Norwood was one reason state officials gave the grant to the school, said acting Principal Frances Goldman.

"We wouldn’t have received the grant to fund Peace Games without USC’s participation," Goldman said. "The grant explicitly requires collaboration with local law enforcement, officials, educational institutions and the larger community."

Norwood, a Family of Five school with a diverse student population, has recently been "plagued with issues surrounding bullying," said Naya Bloom, director of Norwood’s Healthy Start Program. "So we applied to become a Peace Games school. We need a new way to treat each other, starting in the classroom and traveling out to the community."

The money will also be used to expand USC’s Kid Watch program.

"To increase the presence of Kid Watch in the school and neighborhood, we’ve put in some monies to hire extra community folks to recruit, train and recognize new Kid Watch members," Bloom said. "We want to develop our present capacity to bring the Kid Watch program to children and the whole community at large. The idea is to transform how we are looking at policing and bring it more into a community forum."