Student Paper: Learning with the Homeless
During spring semester 2012, 11 students in Associate Professor of Communication Jonathan Shailor's Certificate Program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution facilitated two five-week conflict resolution workshops for residents at HALO (the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization in Racine). This is student Megan Wojtak's personal reflection on the experience.
"Homeless people are lazy!" This was my mindset before my experience at HALO (the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization in Racine). I was especially nervous about our class project being at a homeless shelter because of my stereotypes. I believed that the homeless were dirty, riddled with disease, lazy, uneducated, and addicted to drugs. I did not feel comfortable going to a homeless shelter and surrounding myself with "these types" of people. I was proven very wrong on the first day.
The residents of HALO were perfectly normal people with perfectly normal problems. As I learned from many of the residents, they were just down on their luck and working very hard to get back on their feet. Many of them had jobs and were saving up for their own place and a few of them were even going to school to get a degree. Some had families that they'd like to get back in touch with, and others had family at the shelter as well. All of them had goals they all wanted to get out of the shelter and be better in every aspect of their life. The HALO residents responded very well to us and provided us with a great experience. I would not have learned the things I did had we not facilitated at HALO and I probably would have held on to those stereotypes for the rest of my life.
I have had a very sheltered life up until recently. I went to private school from Kindergarten through high school and I wasn't exposed to a lot of hardship. Some may even say I was somewhat spoiled because there were many things I was unaware of. Since attending college I feel naïve in many situations that expose me to contemporary issues such as homelessness, simply because throughout my childhood and adolescence I was unaware of the reality. My education has changed my judgmental attitude towards many issues affecting society. I feel more aware of the issues affecting us all and I plan to prevent what I can and continue to help those who are afflicted. I recently graduated from UW-Parkside with a Bachelor in Science in Psychology and a Certificate in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and I will be attending Loyola University at Chicago to pursue my Masters in Community Counseling.
By continuing my education I am not only bettering myself, I'm also making myself more effective at helping the community. My experience at HALO opened my eyes and I fully intend to help those in need. There is so much I can do, especially once I have my advanced degree. I would be more than happy to come back to HALO, or to volunteer wherever they may need me, and offer free counseling. I am especially interested in adolescents, and helping them to become functioning adults with educational and career goals, and a positive outlook on life.
The Certificate Program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution
The Certificate Program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution consists of three consecutive Communication classes, starting with COMM 285: Introduction to Conflict Analysis and Resolution, then COMM 385: Strategies for Constructive Dialogue, and finally, COMM 485: Practicum in Conflict Intervention. An elective is also required, making the certificate a total of twelve credits. Introduction to Conflict Analysis and Resolution taught us about conflict, to view conflict positively, and to search for peaceful solutions. Strategies for Constructive Dialogue taught us communication patterns in conflict, strategies for handling and solving conflict, to create and perform conflict scenes, to apply sociodrama techniques, and to facilitate performances. Practicum in Conflict Intervention focused on facilitation and brought us to the community to practice what we had learned. Each class tested us and our abilities and we managed succeed in all of our efforts. The lessons I learned throughout this program will stay with me for the rest of my life and will greatly help me out in my career and with all my conflicts.
The three main goals of the Conflict Analysis/Resolution program are:
1. EMPOWERMENT: to help members of the community identify their goals, recognize their resources, and develop their capacities to manage conflict productively;
2. ENGAGEMENT: to engage members of the community in conversation and dialogue that creates respect, understanding, community, and compassion;
3. COMPASSION: to lead members of the community in the pursuit of peace and social justice.For more information on the certificate Program in Conflict Analysis & Resolution, please contact Program Director Jonathan Shailor: firstname.lastname@example.org; 262-595-2218.