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Youth with a View: Insight from Romeero on Cultivating the Future of Lancaster

Vision for Lancaster

Romeero Melendez is a young man referred to Advoz’s restorative justice program after a graffiti incident handled by local police and a Youth Aid Panel. He sat down to speak with Advoz about his experience with the justice system in a community heavily impacted by contact with the justice system (law enforcement, courts, probation and prison). Two years after his offense, he’s an active and creative contributor to his community through after-school breakdancing sessions at his church’s storefront, creating and selling his own art and competing on a breakdancing circuit in the Northeastern US.

Advoz: “You have a sense of vision for where you’re going and where your community is going. What can Lancaster be?”

Romeero: “I believe Lancaster can be a place known all around the world, and I already think it is, low key.  I t think it’s the best of both worlds. I think you get all perks of living in a city, but not the negatives of living in a big city. You get the city atmosphere, without the thousands of people. It’s a good place for opportunity, and it’s growing.”

Advoz: “How can we get there?”

Romeero: “We need to make moves to bigger things. There’s a lot of talent, and there currently isn’t that platform to bring people to that next level.  People who made it had to do it all themselves and go somewhere else to do what they were trying to do. I always say people fall into small city syndrome, who don’t see people coming up from their community, so they don’t believe they can make it themselves. We more opportunities to let these people grow.”

Romeero’s Words to Advoz’s Investors and Volunteers

Advoz: “What would you want to say to people who are investors, donors, and volunteers? And what is the value you see?”

Romeero: “I definitely would invest in restorative practices; I honestly just see positives and progression. The way the court system works is not always the best choice to create change, because there a lot of people who need help. They’re not bad people, they just did bad things and got caught-up. If more people got help who were caught up in that negative…they could be successful.”

Chris: “You’re doing a lot now [after being involved in restorative justice] for the community. What’s your hope in giving back?”

Romeero: “I want to be an example of someone who made their own path and followed their own dreams; and didn’t let anyone tell them otherwise. I want to be an example for the city, the urban environment, because that’s where I come from, and encourage people to be an entrepreneur. This is a great time to be an entrepreneur, and because of the internet people can capitalize on their talents. People like cool personalities and can make a living off those opportunities, even in a place like Lancaster.  I want people to understand their potential. I want to keep encouraging people, especially the younger generation to, to pursue their talents. For me it was dancers and DJs in the hip-hop community. I didn’t grow up with a father, and those were the members in the community who were mentors for me.

Walk with Romeero–and his future mentor Ramon Trevino–as they tell the story being involved with Restorative Justice.


Cutting through the Buzz: Facilitating Summer Learning

By Jake Rauchberg

There was a buzz in the room. Between my excitement for my first Advoz program and the white noise engulfing the space, I could barely hear myself think. But it wasn’t the sort of buzz that you normally hear when you walk into a church on the weekend. Not the white noise that gleefully fills the air with chatter and smiling faces greeting you. In fact, it was the opposite: mouths shut and arms crossed–utter silence. The only real buzz in the room was from the air conditioning unit drowning out unspoken feelings of apathy and resistance.

Then, as we embarked on the two-and-a-half hour parent workshop for Making Peace, I watched in awe at how the facilitators took a room full of discord and made discourse. 

Though Making Peace was a just a brief snippet of my summer internship with Advoz, what I experienced in those two-and-a-half hours redefined how I look at conflict, communication and community building.  In a matter of moments, the facilitators were able to tackle conflict head-on and establish a workshop that invited open and honest dialogue among unenthusiastic participants (and even myself!).

My summer experience showed me that change can happen on all levels. Whether it was watching the power of a one-on-one victim-offender conference allow an individual to see promise in their future, or observing the progression of a Making Peace workshop create small but meaningful moments to inspire a change in the relationships between parents and their children; I learned that resolution comes in many shapes and sizes. 

My summer with Advoz taught me that in all conflict, there is opportunity for change, no matter where I end up I know that the values I learned in my Advoz summer are ones that I can take into the future. Thank you to all who gave me such a memorable summer — staff, volunteers and yes, the buzzing, open-minded families in that Making Peace workshop.

Jake Rauchberg is a rising senior at Franklin and Marshall College and just completed his summer internship with Advoz through the Ware Center for Civic Engagement.


Peacebuilding across Generations: Elliot Martin

By Skyler Gibbon, Advoz Intern

Hearing his father’s stories around the dinner table inspired Elliot Martin to get involved with Advoz. “It sounded beautiful. There are really important principles of restorative justice. Needing to address the harm in conflict is applicable to all of life. I think dad modeled that in some ways. He is an example of working that into the soul. I try to do that on my own, as well,” he conveys. 

When they sat down for supper, Tim Martin, Elliot’s dad, veteran restorative justice facilitator with Advoz, would often tell him about “the case” he was working on and developments that happened. Tim found the stories intriguing.

Hearing Elliot tell his own story alongside his father, listening and communication emerge as a important theme. They are integral to restorative justice processes. Elliot reveals that his dad has confessed to having trouble being a good listener, but it’s something he’s been aware of, especially in the last decade. “Seeing him trying to improve his listening skills…seeing how important it is to him…that’s an edge and a challenge. Seeing him work on that was exemplary,” Elliot adds. Elliot was inspired to incorporate that value into his own life and relationships. His father also related to this notion.

Photo: kids see what adults do...and how they handle their own faults.

“In the past 15 years, I’ve been working on myself and my own character defects,” Tim adds. By functioning as a facilitator, he’s been strengthening this area for himself and everyone around him.

Elliot participated in this spring’s restorative justice conferencing training, a program that equips him to facilitate face-to-face dialogue between “victims” and “offenders” who experience or inflicted harm in a crime. He has learned an immense amount already in his brief time volunteering. He finds that Advoz attracts a certain personality that holds certain values which he identifies with. The cases can be challenging, but he appreciates the support he receives. Elliot is energized by the challenge and likes putting the knowledge he has been given into practice. “I am an amateur and haven’t actually had a joint conference yet, so that’s something I am really looking forward to,” he says.

Elliot believes that working with Advoz is a great way for young people of his generation to become aware of the benefits of restorative justice. He encourages young people to attend a training, a great resource for helping with skills such as listening, conflict styles awareness, trigger words, and recognizing and addressing the harm. He also appreciated the wealth of literature available now in the field.

Elliot see empathy as vital to doing this work well. To anyone starting out, he emphasizes the importance of being gracious, recognizing the good, not judging people and becoming aware of where an “offender” might be coming from. He advises new facilitators not to jump to conclusions about why people do the harmful things they do. “Preparing oneself to be really empathetic is important, and also to be curious and open to learning constantly…and not just thinking about how people should be,” Elliot implores.

Tim, his father, agrees that patience and understanding is essential to a facilitator’s role. “I just try to keep an open mind. It’s complex. You don’t know what they are going through,” Tim adds. There is often a lot of stimulation and inattentiveness to the children when he arrives at some of his meetings.  “As you listen, sometimes you get surprised at some of their answers. They are not what you expect. One of the kids’ needs is being listened to, because (often) nobody listens to them.”

Tim and Elliot believe giving the kids a well-formed space to use their voice can be meaningful for them–and transforming. “Sometimes the parents want to talk for the kid,” Tim adds. And he knows all about the challenges—and triumphs–of learning to listen better.

Elliot continues to learn from his dad’s example…and to grow in his own journey of learning and empathy for people he’s met through the restorative justice process. And now, they can bond over it, together, at the dinner table.


Spreading Peace Across Generations: Tim Martin

By Skyler Gibbon, Advoz Intern

Meet Tim and Elliot Martin, a father son duo volunteering with Advoz. After years of conversations about cases around the dinner table, Elliot decided to try it out for himself this spring. He joined the victim offender conferencing training and now shares with his dad in making peace in our community by facilitating restorative justice.

Tim was introduced to Advoz (LAVORP at the time) by another volunteer and wanted to get on board with victim/offender conference facilitation as a way to give back. He enjoyed working with youth soccer at the time. “It felt like the right time in my life,” says Tim. He was attracted to the restorative quality of that work.

Tim’s interest in restorative justice goes back to childhood and his own father. His dad caught Tim playing with toy army men that he stole from the local grocery store. He angrily marched Tim down to the store and made him confess what he did to the manager. To make amends, Tim had to work to pay back the stolen toys. It didn’t mean a lot to Tim, but he saw the significance of what this meant to his father. “The fact that he made time to take me there and sit me down with that guy… and I cried like a baby because I was guilty. I never stole again because of that. He was a great model for me,” Tim says.

That personal experience of committing a crime as a very young child is ultimately what brought Tim to working with juveniles in restorative justice. “I know it works…My father didn’t have any training. He was just parenting,” Tim reflects. He was working and putting three kids through college at the same time he was volunteering for Advoz.

Advoz has personally impacted Tim. His volunteering has helped him to build boundaries and work harder to make things right. It made him think about his own life and how he raised his kids. “I want to make sure I model for them the way my dad did for me,” he says. 

Coming to the final joint meeting of a victim/offender conferencing process gives him a profound joy. Watching an adult come around to the youth and say, “I didn’t think you were a bad kid” is a moving experience, he reflects. He is inspired seeing victims giving encouragement to people they did not respect at the beginning, with every right to be angry. Seeing the transition in their attitude is something miraculous for him to witness. Walking out of each case from the beginning to the end is “breathtaking., Tim says with awe. “It’s God’s work.”

Now Tim’s son, Elliot is taking up this work as a facilitator. Stay tuned for more on his experience with Advoz, and how his father inspired him to get involved with restorative justice and continue it in his own way.


Welcome Krista Rittenhouse

Krista Rittenhouse got involved with Advoz training and volunteering in our Restorative Justice Conferencing program this spring. But she went above and beyond the call of duty by successfully reaching out to dozens of people impacted by crime and violations on the phone. Now Krista is the Restorative Justice Case Manager and will coordinate and coach volunteer facilitators on 150+ cases of harm each year.

Graduating from Eastern Mennonite University in 2014, Krista studied peacebuilding, development and Spanish, with a special interest in restorative justice. She comes to Advoz with a range of experience in social services, mission work and retail management.

Krista is excited to help people heal relationships and invest in Lancaster city youth. She is an avid runner and also loves rock climbing, board games, and sharing food with friends. Stop by our office and find out why Krista is Advoz’s latest rock star.


Making Peace ~ Poetry & Practice

Each month, youth and parents have a chance to practice being peacemakers in their own world, family, school, friends, community. It’s a class called Making Peace and the youth, often referred by Youth Aid Panels from school fights and other first-time incidents, often find themselves not only enjoying the class, but becoming collaborative poets. It’s just one of the often-transformational exercises of this 4-hour class of youth and their parents.

But this past class was so enthusiastic about what they produced, they asked to have it sent back to them. So this gives you an idea of how young people, even those starting skeptically about learning something from an obligatory Saturday morning workshop, can become creators of their own peaceable world.

Peace is the color of the rainbow, red and blue and orange and white…every color has its own meaning… transparent, clear, too.

Peace is like an elephant, an owl, a dove, a koi fish, a pink pig (cuz everybody likes bacon!)

Peace moves freely, swims, in the ocean of freedom.

It flies, it walks, it runs, it crawls. It spreads like a virus.

Peace tastes like oxygen, air…sweet and sour pork, red white & blue popsicles…sugar. Peace is like a bright sunny day! or not stepped in, fresh snow cause everybody’s inside or messy snow cuz everybody’s outside!


Kind Words, Kind Hands, Kind Feet: Fair Process for 3- or 93-year-olds

By: Mila Pilz, Advoz’s Executive Director, Program Operations

One of the basic tenets of restorative practices is called “fair process.” “People are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in behavior when those in authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them,” from a statement of the International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP). A catchy way to remember this is, “a decision made without me is against me.”

There are three ‘E’ principles to fair process: Engagement, Explanation and Expectation Clarity. 

  1. Engagement — involving individuals in decisions that affect them by listening to their views and genuinely taking their opinions into account
  2. Explanation — explaining the reasoning behind a decision to everyone who has been involved or who is affected by it
  3. Expectation Clarity — making sure that everyone clearly understands a decision and what is expected of them in the future (Kim & Mauborgne, 1997)

In real life, this boils down to having a dialogue with those involved about the decisions. This ensures that everyone understands the decisions and knows what is expected of them, and what are the consequences for not abiding by the agreements.  In the adult world, we observe this in terms of team guidelines and company handbooks. 

When it comes to applying these principles to dialoguing with youth, there is a tendency to minimize the importance of following through with them.  In the elementary school classroom, having the students hear and agree to the rules is a routine expectation …but what about having them come up with their own rules?  How young is too young for fair process?  I decided to do what any good mom would do and test the principles with my own family.  My husband and I talked with our 3-year-old daughter about the ways we each wanted to be treated in our household.  We came up with compassionate ideas such as “kind words”, “kind hands”, and “kind feet.”

Our family guidelines that we have posted on our refrigerator for all to see.

We all also adopted a guideline she learned at her daycare about being a “bucket filler,” based on the book, Have you Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. We asked her to draw the guideline on a blank piece of paper, then we talked about what should happen if one of us did not follow the guideline. We came up with the following:

First Time – A reminder by coming back to review the paper that is posted on the refrigerator. 

Second Time – Re-do! A time to “rewind” and try again. 

Third Time – A 5-minute cool down time. 

Amazingly enough, this process has been very helpful for our family.  It has allowed for all of us to have the same expectations of each other.  We all bought into it since we all had a say into it (so democratic!).  Now, it isn’t always perfect, but it has definitely been a good tool to have in the parenting toolbox. 

So whether you’re working with 3-year old, or someone far older in your family, try starting with that blank piece of paper. Set up clear expectations, explanations and engagement together. And return to them. We can all use more fair process, more kindness–starting at home.

Mila has a long-standing passion for conflict resolution, going back to being a peer mediator in elementary school. After earning B.A.’s from Bloomsburg University and M.A.’s in Conflict Resolution and in International and Intercultural Communication from the University of Denver, Mila took her skills abroad. In Amman, Jordan she taught in a private K-8 school, working with school discipline and parent-school relations. In leadership since 2014 with Conflict Resolution Services before merging to form Advoz, Mila is excited to be making her hometown an even better place to live.


What Happened Around the Advoz Table this Year?

Even if you weren’t around the Advoz table last week, I thought you might want to know how memorable it was for so many of us.

Whether it was folks who experienced Advoz dialogue, committed volunteers, dedicated sponsors or curious newcomers on April 30th, the atmosphere was celebratory as you’ll see, thanks to photographer Andrea Faus. Check out some photos below and at @AdvozLancaster.

So how generous were we around the Advoz table? See below…and contribute to that table tally here.

We Raised…. $59,400!


Romeero, an impressive young man who was part of Advoz’s restorative victim-offender conferencing discussed his experience with Advoz, restorative justice and his dreams for the future.

The winning entries from our Art Contest displayed their work. The students from diverse backgrounds in School District of Lancaster expressed “how does peace look in your community” in their works

Last year’s Dignity in Dialogue awardee Dr. Amanda Kemp honored this year’s recipient, local artist and social justice advocate Salina Almanzar, who spoke about the challenges and opportunities of dialogue as a Latina artist.

Bidders had friendly competition over 80 items, from baseball tickets and jewelry, to art and handmade goods. 

The talented auctioneers from HK Keller rallied the crowd and inspired the audience to raise bid generously.

Laughter, friendship, support… all creating peace in our community. That’s what Around the Table is about. And we hope you can join us next year!

So what’s next? We have three opportunities to learn more and join Advoz’s work as a volunteer creating peace. Check out and consider signing up for:

Advoz’s work continues. And I hope you can continue to be a part of it.

With so many thanks to the leadership and sponsorship of…

The Hess Agency
High Companies
Sharp Shopper Grocery Outlet 
Weaver and Associates
Bertz, Hess, and Co., LLP
Mennonite Central Committee
Sentinel Management Services
Elizabethtown College Ctr. for Global Understanding & Peacemaking
EMU Lancaster MAED
Bomberger’s Store
John and Susan Simkins
Goodville Mutual
PNC Bank

Vicki Carskadon
Lancaster County Financial Group, LLC 
Saundra Hoover
John Eby
Esbenshades Greenhouses
Oregon Dairy
Executive Image Solutions
Lancaster County Youth Aid Panels
Ray and Lynette Huber


Keeping the Thanks in Thanksgiving Conversation

Will your family be hosting a circle dialogue this Thanksgiving?

Many families have a tradition of going around the table and answering the question, “what are you thankful for this year?” This is a great example of an impromptu circle– just grab a talking piece (you can create one or just grab the salt shaker) and set the ground rules that when one person has that talking piece, everyone else is listening!

Remember, others will follow if you set a tone of openness and vulnerability for your circle! Promote strong dialogue with your family and friends this holiday seasons with the following tips:

Conversation starters to spice up your holiday table talk:

  1. What does it mean to you to give thanks?
  2. What expressions of gratitude would leave you feeling most appreciated?
  3. Who at the table would you like to thank personally and for what?
  4. If you could share Thanksgiving dinner with one famous historical figure, who would you choose?
  5. What question would you ask them?
  6. What are you looking forward to in December?

Tips for a constructive conversation:

  1. Avoid starting questions with “why”
  2. Start sentences with “I”
  3. Ask open-ended questions—questions that have more than a 1-word answer
  4. Use your good listening skills–that means no interruptions, watch your body language and try to paraphrase the facts and feels of the speaker
  5. Ask for clarification before making assumptions

 

Best wishes for a fun and productive conversation!


Meet Miles Iati, Advoz program intern

Advoz:  What are you studying these days?
Miles:  I am a psychology major focusing on developmental and social psychology. I am interested in research and study of trauma, childhood disorders, and addiction.
Advoz: Why were you interested in learning and serving at Advoz?
Miles:  I was initially attracted to Advoz because I thought that the Restorative Justice Conferencing would be a great way for me to get experience working with kids and to practice communication and conflict resolution skills. Now that I have finished the training and completed a few cases, I feel as though I have a good understanding of Advoz’s mission, and I’m looking forward to continuing to volunteer even after my time in the office. 
Advoz: What’s your favorite part about interning for Advoz so far?
Miles: I enjoy exposure to all the programs and trainings that Advoz offers. In addition to the Conferencing training, I also enjoyed participating in the mediation training.
Advoz:  Where do you plan to take the skills and principles learned at Advoz?
Miles:  I plan to use Advoz skills eventually as a school psychologist. Like the communication skills in Advoz’s trainings, I’ve gained some very valuable skills for my professional development.