Program teaches Philly youth conflict resolution skills to avoid violence

A four-week long summer youth program in West Philadelphia is building conflict resolution skills in the community.

Rashidah Cornitcher of the Ultimate Dreamers Foundation founded the group with her middle school educator Dr. Crystle Roye-Gill.

The program has been nostalgic for the duo. Cornitcher participated in Dr. Roye-Gill’s conflict resolution program years ago when she was a middle school student. Her mother placed her into the program after she got into a fight.

"I was cut with a razor two inches from my jugular vein which could’ve been life ending," said Cornitcher. "Conflict is a natural part of life. It’s going to happen every single day. What’s not natural is it ending in violence, so we want to eliminate that and help them come up with solutions that everyone can live with and walk away unscathed."

"Students are just not good at communicating thoughts, needs, desires It’s like an ebb and flow. You’re going to get one word communication, you’re going to get short answers," said Dr. Roye-Gill. "We need them to be able to elaborate."

About a dozen students participate in the program at a time and receive two gift cards worth $150, back-to-school supplies, breakfast and snacks.

Students are also exposed to exercising with Soul2Sole rebounding jumping. They also receive trauma education and group therapy with the Anti-Violence Partnership.

"Everything isn’t about fighting, guns included, and just sit down with them and have a talk with them. It’s OK to express your feelings," said student Khamai Burton.

One of the youngest students in the program Jayhan Fisher, 11, said the program taught him how to manage his emotions.

"Usually by breathing or closing my eyes and thinking of good things," said Fisher. I will ask my school to start doing peer mediation after a conflict."

The students are following in Cornitcher’s footsteps. The now 42-year-old said she became lead peer mediator at Overbrook High School.

She said those conflict resolution and negotiation skills are still serving her today in her career as an NFL agent and entrepreneur.

"It put me in a leadership position. I always felt that I had to lead by example after becoming a peer mediator," said Cornitcher.

The Ultimate Dreamers Foundation Youth Conflict Resolution program is application based and open to elementary, middle and high school students.

Cornitcher hopes to launch the next four-week long program this fall.