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On Collaboration

In the following post, I will explore what I learned about collaboration while creating the last two infographics in partnership with friends and Chris Fitz. This is the sequel to last week’s blog post and the final in a series covering a new set of infographics. These infographics were designed to provide information on and compare and contrast zero tolerance and restorative methods of discipline within an educational context (see part one on shame here: https://advoz.org/news/on-creating-dialogue-about-exclusionary-discipline-in-education/). The infographics covering restorative justice in schools and ways to get involved with Advoz are available for download at the end of this post.

Infographic depicting the benefits of using restorative methods of conflict management in schools. Benefits include providing an alternative to exclusion, giving students a voice, fostering community, positive school climates, safety, and disrupting the cycle of repeat offenses.
Restorative Justice in Schools

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was entirely unfamiliar with graphic design and writing infographic text for a broad audience going into this project. In other words, I did not really know what I was getting myself into. After several hours of drafting the text, finding stats, and obsessing over font and image alignment, I realized that this project was not something that I could do alone. They always say that two heads are better than one. In this case, it was four+ heads! To produce a meaningful and helpful product, I would need help and feedback from friends and experts in all things Restorative Justice and Advoz. Indeed, most of the creative process consisted of the virtual collaboration between me, my dear friends, Chris Fitz, and the professor who assigned the solution project. So, it should come as no surprise that the second thing I learned from creating these infographics was there is power in collaboration.

Constructive criticism and collaboration are potent tools in any creative process. Each time I shared a draft with one of my collaborators, I thought that it was perfect. Each time, they pointed out something that I had missed, like a stray comma or unaligned text. More significantly, they shared their perception of the infographics, how they received them and how the text and images would make them feel like an audience member. This was the most crucial feedback in my perspective for several reasons. First, my perception of the infographics as an author will always be different from that of the audience. Second, in creating these infographics, I became a representative of Advoz; so, I wanted to accurately portray their mission and vision and Restorative Justice and practices. That also meant not offending their partners, such as police and school staff. Third, it allowed me to identify areas that I may have been evoking an emotion or feeling, such as shame, that could turn audiences off the message.

Infographic describing Advoz's mission and vision, and ways to get involved as a volunteer facilitator or teacher. Restorative justice and mediation extends beyond schools.
Restorative Justice: How Can You Get Involved in Lancaster?

Let’s look to a moment of collaboration during the creative process. Specifically, one piece of feedback I received from Chris Fitz. In the “Restorative Justice in Schools” infographic, the subheading “Positive School Climates Promote Safety” was initially titled “Promoting a Positive School Environment.” Chris shared that the language I chose was too “touchy-feely” and may turn parents, teachers, and police for whom students’ safety is the primary concern. Indeed, one of the primary reasons people are skeptical of restorative programs in schools is the worry that it is too soft on students and that they will not learn discipline without consequences. This was a point that I had not considered at the time. As a student, I found data pointing to the positive impact of RJ on school climate and teacher satisfaction extremely compelling. Of course, I wanted to highlight the data as one of the benefits of using restorative methods in schools.

However, collaborating with Chris made me consider different perspectives of what school discipline should accomplish. Also, to build off of last week’s topic, stepping into another party’s shoes forced me to consider what their emotional response could be. In this case, I imagined parents rolling their eyes or feeling concerned for their student’s safety amidst a turbulent time. That is the power of collaboration. One small piece of feedback pushed me to explore other’s perceptions of and responses to the infographics and the topic of school discipline and safety as a whole. Ultimately, I found a way to combine the overwhelming data on the positive impact of RJ on school climate and school safety. In turn, the final product better represented Advoz’s mission, restorative programs, and the benefits of a restorative approach in schools. It also became more persuasive to parties who may be on the fence.

To close, I have reflected a lot on collaboration and feedback in creating this post. When I was a kid, the importance of working together was always emphasized in the way classes were structured. We were assigned worksheets, art pieces, projects to do as a kid. We were taught to listen, communicate, share tools and ideas, and give and receive feedback in those activities. We learned to consider snd value other people’s perspectives. More than that, we came to realize that by working together, the final product might be different than one initially imagined, but the process was more manageable. And maybe, the product was even better than initially imagined. I am sure many of you had similar experiences as a child. Unfortunately, I think the value of working together–collaborating– is something we can forget about as adults. Or at least I did after a long year of being stuck inside, working alone. Collaboration with my partners and Chris reminded me that many minds are better than one and that there is always room to improve. Overall, the lesson in this post is that anything is possible if you work with others, consider alternative perspectives, take feedback, and give yourself space to make mistakes and improve.


On Creating Dialogue about Exclusionary Discipline in Education

Before I share what I learned while creating Zero Tolerance and Restorative Justice (RJ) in education for Advoz, allow me to introduce myself briefly. My name is Catherine Wise. I am a college student studying neuroscience and Spanish at the Texas Christian University located in Fort Worth, Texas.

Early this spring, I reached out to the incredible staff at Advoz, asking what I could do to promote the mission and vision while achieving my goal of educating the Lancaster community. After some conversation, we decided on a series of infographics designed to start an open and honest dialogue about zero tolerance and the potential harm of the overuse of exclusionary discipline within the community. In the same series, we wanted to provide resources about using restorative methods of conflict management in schools and promote ways individuals can get involved with the process through training. Two of the four infographics (i.e., those on zero tolerance) are available for download at the end of this blog post.

Infographic explaining Zero Tolerance in Education. The history, how it is used, and the disciplinary actions it entails.
Infographic I: Zero Tolerance Discipline in Education, A One Size Fits All Approach to Discipline

In earnest, I was entirely unfamiliar with the processes of graphic design, social media, and writing infographic text for a broad audience going into this project. With the help of Chris Fitz, I was able to learn some of the necessary skills on the fly. In a series of two blog posts, I will share with you some things I learned along the way.

First, I learned how powerful shame can be and to avoid unnecessarily evoking it when discussing complex topics. Although I study psychology, I had never honestly thought about how powerful shame can be. Working on this project with Advoz staff gave me space and time to learn that evoking shame, be that intentional or not, can cause people to put up their defenses and stop engaging with information. More importantly, shame hinders conversation.

When I showed him my first drafts, Chris Fitz highlighted several areas where he thought I was using “shame language” or “shame iconography.” For instance, under the “Disciplinary Action” subtitle (see left image, panel three), I had initially used an icon of a teacher scolding a student and language that assigned blame to the school faculty for using exclusionary discipline (e.g., teachers and Student Resource Officers). Chris shared with me that this could make their partners–teachers, administrators, and police– feel shame for using exclusionary discipline or not understanding the gravity of its overuse. This is the opposite effect of what I wanted to achieve.

Infographic explaining zero tolerance discipline in education, providing statistics that beg the question: is it working for our students?
Infographic II: Zero Tolerance, Is it working for Our Students?

As an individual who reads and writes scientific literature, I am used to synthesizing evidence, coming to a conclusion, and not dwelling on the emotional response it might produce in my audience. In other words, it had not occurred to me that the language and imagery I used could create shame in school faculty who have suspended or expelled students. Further, I did not consider how this would be received by people who did not fully understand the impact of zero-tolerance policies on their students. I thought about shame a lot after my conversation with Chris. I had just learned that shame can motivate avoidance in a psychology course I was taking at the time. After some thought, I realized that evoking shame could cause teachers to stop engaging with the infographic. They may not have even reached the resources to change their impact on students’ lives.

At first, I was genuinely stumped on how to share that exclusionary discipline is overused without shaming the school faculty who administer it. I thought it would be impossible for me to find a way to share this information without blaming the parties involved. After a lot of thought and more conversation with Chris, I changed the language. I ended up with the image of an arrow pointing to a door because it captures the idea of exclusionary discipline without shaming the faculty required to use it.

Overall, I think that shame is something that we should all be mindful of when we enter a dialogue about complex subjects. While it is a natural part of taking accountability and growth as an individual, shame is also extremely uncomfortable to sit with, feel, and process. Shame makes the person experiencing the emotion want to put up their defenses and stop listening. So, next time you find that you need to have a difficult conversation with someone in your life, take some time to think about language, tone of voice, and gestures that could evoke shame. I can promise you that it is not always easy to recognize to start. Still, with practice, anyone can shift the conversation away from assigning blame to fostering understanding and accountability.


Intern Stories: Meet Kiarelys Ortega-Balbuena

My name is Kiarelys Ortega I am currently attending Millersville University for my bachelor’s in Social Work. I originally chose Millersville because of the close proximity to where I live. I help out my parents with translating (their primary language is Spanish), so being able to be close to them was a priority for me. I was born in Puerto Rico and my parents moved us here when I was 6 years old so I would have more opportunities. Because of past experiences, I have always wanted to be a social worker and it led to me being passionate about helping people in my community. Even though classes take up a lot of my time, some of my hobbies include painting, organizing my bedroom, doing crossword puzzles, listening to podcasts, and reading occasionally, (when I discover a good book). 

Advoz initially caught my attention because of the restorative justice aspect they use to solve conflicts. I did not have a lot of previous knowledge on restorative justice, but after learning about it, I found it very interesting and wanted to build knowledge on it. After interviewing for the intern position in November, I searched what restorative justice was and found out that it went hand in hand with a lot of things that I personally valued like preventing future crime, instead of just persecuting and letting the cycle continue. I would like to continue building my knowledge on how restorative justice can be used in everyday situations.

 I also did not know much about the circle process and learned a lot from participating in Advoz’s recent 3-day training. I learned about the steps that facilitators take to ask questions, and even play games, to build relationships before addressing the problem. I was not prepared for the sensitive topics that would be discussed, but I also think that is part of building relationships. The circle structure creates a safe space for this sensitive sharing. Somethings that stood out to me were the backstories that everyone had for their talking pieces and the background on the actual process. I would have never guessed it originated from indigenous models and can be adapted to work for pretty much any population. The training made me feel more confident that I could run my own circle one day and showed the steps that I need to take for it to be successful.  


Intern Stories: Meet Stephanie Fabian

I am currently a senior at Millersville University majoring in Social Work and minoring in Spanish. Since I was a middle school student, I knew I wanted to help people and advocate for unheard voices of vulnerable populations. My mom and her siblings are from Puebla, Mexico so I grew up speaking and reading Spanish, but I wanted to learn how to write and interpret it better.

The work that is done at Advoz was out of my comfort zone. I had never worked with youth before and I wanted to push myself so that I can grow as a person and learn to work with a different population than the one I am used to. I also wanted to bring some of my skills to the organization. I am fluent in Spanish and I wanted to make sure the voices of those with limited English were heard. I have been here for a couple of weeks now and I know that I made the right choice! Their mission, to transform conflict and build community through face to face dialogue, was also a big factor in why I chose to serve at Advoz. The concept of non-traditional justice is what drew me in. The focus on restorative justice and figuring out how to repair what was done as opposed to a punitive measure can be a positive life-changing for youth and I want to be a part of that.

My favorite thing so far has been witnessing the willingness of youth to repair some of the harm they have caused to another individual. Seeing someone so young realize that their actions can have negative consequences gives me hope for their future and the future of the community. I am most looking forward to improving both my communication skills in Spanish and English in a professional setting while making an impact in the lives of those involved within our community. I am also eager to learn more about the work done at Advoz and the impact that they have on the lives of the youth and the victims that come through the program.

I am planning on continuing my studies and getting my master’s in social work next year. I plan to take the skills I learn at Advoz and applying them in graduate school. When I am not in the Advoz office I enjoy spending my free time volunteering and helping in other organizations in the community. I like spending time outdoors with friends and having paint nights or movie nights with them.


Advoz’s 2018-2019 Annual Report: Core Concentration

Restorative Justice Victim Offender Conferencing cases continue to be about half of Advoz’s caseload, primarily referred from Lancaster County’s Juvenile Probation and Juvenile Court.

Your dollars were a long-term community investment as we concentrated on core programs in mediation and restorative justice. Staff coordinated an impressive team of volunteer mediators in more than 350 cases of dialogue and training, serving more than 700 youth and adults. With the majority of our cases focused on addressing harm in restorative justice dialogue, many of our resources addressed this area of core services for people harmed and those who’ve caused harmed to find healing and make things right through dialogue.

Advoz’s last fiscal year began June 1, 2018, with challenges–too many referrals and too few trained mediators. By year-end, May 31, 2019, we were seeing stronger outcomes in core programs and an increase in the number of cases leading to breakthrough dialogue. Thanks to new volunteer mediators and strong partners, especially the office of Juvenile Probation, we are accomplishing more effective dialogue in our community.

Advoz leveraged more than 80 trained volunteers in working with 300+ cases this year. The above budget doesn’t reflect this volunteer time, only cash spending on core programs and services, much of which comprised of core professional staff to recruit, train, supervise and report on volunteer mediation work. The fiscal year budget represented a relatively stable year-to-year performance. However, 2019-2020 is already showing exciting growth that will allow Advoz to expand programs and realize our transformative potential.


Calling All Volunteer (Peace Makers)

There are many ways one can contribute their time and skills to this work at Advoz!

Calls continue into our office: conflicts, crimes, broken relationships. Can you answer this call for peacemakers in our community?

  1. We are looking for volunteers to help community outreach events and training role plays.
  2. September 9th kicks off a new training for volunteer facilitators in restorative justice, and the need is great for reconciliation.
  3. Oct. 3rd is Advoz’s next training in mediation to equip our community with healthy conflict skills.

Read on and consider how you’re called to make a difference…and share this with someone else who might! Thank you.

Advoz seeks volunteers to help with community outreach and training. Check our Sign Up Genius for three easy opportunities to support Advoz’s reconciling work by volunteering at a training or event. Our upcoming events are Sept. 9-14/Oct. 14-19 , October 12 and November 22. Or consider joining one of our intensive trainings in August and September and become a front-line peacemaker yourself. More at (717) 397-2404 or by using the link below.

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Advoz’s Fall of 2019:
Sept. 9 – Oct. 14, 6 evenings & 2 Saturdays: 
Training in Restorative Justice Conferencing (Victim/Offender)
October 3-5, Thursday-Saturday: Basic Mediation Training

New Faces: Jake Rauchberg, Advoz Summer Intern

We welcome Jake Rauchberg this summer from Franklin and Marshall College and the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement. He’s joined Advoz this summer as a full-time intern, assisting in both programs and community outreach. Welcome Jake!

What do you study?

I am rising senior at Franklin & Marshall College and a native of Randolph, NJ. At Franklin & Marshall I study Government and Environmental Studies. I am also a Spanish minor, which gave me the opportunity to study in Havana, Cuba to learn Spanish and more about Afro-Cuban culture. My favorite parts about being at F&M is discovering more about the Lancaster community and all the County has to offer.

What was your motivation in selecting to learn and serve at Advoz?

I knew I wanted to be a part of an organization that was a champion for change in the Lancaster Community. For me, I knew Advoz was that organization! I selected Advoz because of their mission to champion community building and the positive long-term investment mediation and restorative practices creates.

What’s your favorite part about interning at Advoz so far and what are you most looking forward to?

My favorite part about interning at Advoz so far is learning more about restorative justice, and how restorative practices can make a proactive difference in your local community. I enjoy learning from the Advoz staff about the day to day tasks of a local non-profit, and I can’t wait to see Advoz’s mission put into action throughout the summer!

Where do you plan to take the skills and principles learned at Advoz?

I am applying for law school this fall, and I hope to take the value of mediation and restorative practices with me in the future. The idea of an alternative concept of justice is something I am learning about every day, and my goal is to apply the principle mission of Advoz to my future endeavors, wherever that may be.

When you are not in the Advoz office, what do you like to do?

I love the outdoors and hiking on trails around Lancaster, so I am always ready for a new trail or challenge. My favorite place to hike in Pennsylvania is Valley Forge National Park because of the park’s natural beauty, but also for my love of American history. I also love to play and watch soccer. I am a member of the F&M men’s club soccer team, where we travel to and compete against other colleges across Pennsylvania. I am an avid follower of the English Premier League, and my favorite club is Chelsea FC in London!

Look for Jake in Lancaster City this summer, kicking around alternative forms of justice with us as he contributes to Advoz’s court-referred and community-based work…or blazing a trail near you. Welcome Jake!


New Faces: Skyler Gibbon, Advoz Summer Intern

We welcome Skyler Gibbon this summer from Lancaster and Millersville University. She learned about Advoz through our network of partners and mentors and has joined Advoz this summer as our full-time program intern. Welcome Skyler!

What do you study?

I am an English major with a concentration in Writing Studies and an African American Studies minor. I have always had a passion for writing, especially poetry. I enjoy watching other people perform their writing, as well. Through Millersville University I became interested in the connection of African American Studies and rhetoric. I will be graduating and moving onto my English MA studies at Millersville after Advoz and completion my thesis on the rhetorical influence of black preaching within hip hop culture.

What was your motivation to learn and serve at Advoz?

Initially, I wanted to go somewhere that would help me grow, while also utilizing my English degree skills to serve people. I was just browsing possible non profit internship opportunities online with one of my professors. He told me about his own personal experience with Advoz, and about the important work they do for the community. I had never heard of restorative justice conferencing before that and didn’t know why. I wanted to sign up immediately.

Also, I lived abroad a previous year as part of an international intentional community based in the UK. It was here that I learned the value of being vulnerable in order to listen, understand, and work through conflict with the goal of reconciliation. The idea that Advoz could help me build on that within my local Lancaster community was really exciting.

What’s your favorite part about interning at Advoz so far and what are you most looking forward to?

Going into Advoz, I was really interested in diving into everything. I participated in last spring’s conferencing training, and so I’ve just started a few cases now. That’s been really enriching, and a good challenge. Humans have an innate tendency to gravitate away from conflict, and I’m stepping into it.

Plugging in data has been interesting, too, because I have been able to see what narratives make their way into this office. Looking through them has only made me more aware of the significant opportunities restorative justice has in creating real healing. We then give others the opportunity to see faces attached to the narratives.

Where do you plan to take the skills and principles learned at Advoz?

Advoz has been very helpful with learning good communication skills, which means listening properly as well as communicating myself effectively. It’s really good practice in being dialogic, which will be so useful in my academic/professional/personal self. I’m practicing skills here that I will take with me forever.

When you are not in the Advoz office, what do you like to do?

I enjoy the arts. I like writing and listening to poetry, reading, seeing plays, films, any literary events…especially within the Lancaster community. I practically live in the Millersville English Department. I am also active in my church community, where I am a vestry member. Social justice is a passion and value of mine, so I like participating in different promotions of it, too. I’m really into riding my bike, which is an ethereal experience that I use often for commuting when it’s nice out.

If you’re lucky, you can see Skyler cycling around Lancaster, not just to and from Advoz this summer, but also to appointments with Advoz clients. Welcome Skyler!


Advoz Names New Officers

We are pleased to announce a new slate of officers for our board of directors. Advoz, a Lancaster-based nonprofit providing mediation, restorative justice dialogue and conflict resolution training since 1981, recently named a slate of experienced officers to its board:

  • Lucille Connors, of Lititz and CEO of Significa Benefit Services, continued in her second year as board Chairperson;
  • Ken Nissley, of Lancaster and retired IT administrator and restorative justice case manager steps forward as board Vice-Chairperson;
  • John Bomberger, of Millersville, retired CEO of Choice Books steps forward as board Treasurer;
  • John Huber, of Lititz, retired Attorney at Gibbel Kraybill & Hess, steps forward as board Secretary.

Other members include:

  • Peter Faben, Attorney at Barley Snyder LLP;
  • Rob Bomberger, President at Benjamin Roberts, Ltd.;
  • Marjorie Mattey, Retired healthcare services consultant;
  • John Eby, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Messiah College;
  • Dawn Gamble, CPA, CGMA, CFO consultant;
  • James Landis, Management Consultant at Core4;
  • Barbara Spiegelberg, retired real estate professional;
  • Deanna Weaver, Deputy Director at Lancaster Victim/Witness Services.

Advoz formed from the 2017 merger of Conflict Resolution Services and the Center for Community Peacemaking, both having served Lancaster County and beyond for a combined 59 years. In its most recent fiscal year, Advoz served more than 900 youth and adults involved in conflicts and crime to assist them through facilitated dialogue and education training. Demand for these services has risen 40% over the past two years, adding urgency to the work of Advoz’s board of directors to increase funding and volunteer involvement.

Advoz is one of the most active restorative justice and mediation services in Pennsylvania thanks to its partnerships in local justice system and support from volunteers and donors in the community.

Advoz staff is led by Chris Fitz, of Marietta, executive director of community engagement, and Mila Pilz, of Manheim Twp, executive director of program operations.


Creating Peace Takes Effort…and You

By Chris Fitz

When people talk about “peace,” I often hear an assumption of tranquility or calmness. Not usually so at Advoz. German philosopher Immanuel Kant once distinguished between the “peace of the graveyard” in its quiet stillness and a peace wrought by vigorously building agreements. This active peace is a core Advoz value, built into the meaning of Advoz, “to add voice.” It’s not easy. And your part is more necessary than ever.

This year’s event theme, Creating Peace, was inspired by a young man who didn’t flinch when he was invited into active dialogue with Advoz. “Reme” had been caught spraying illegal graffiti by the warehouse owner and police. And when the owner opted not to participate in restorative dialogue, Advoz invited Ramon, a community volunteer to stand-in as a “surrogate victim” in restorative dialogue.

Ramon working on the graffiti instillation at a local school

As it happened, Ramon is also a professional graffiti artist and was able to speak to the respect that’s missing in illicit graffiti. Ramon invited Reme to help work on a professional mural at a local school (above), and they kept in touch as Reme began building his own entrepreneurial portfolio. Reme knows that peace is work. Creative work.

If you want to appreciate this more fully—and find out how it ends—Reme and Ramon are featured guests at our Around the Table signature event on April 30th. You’ll meet them and their artwork if you join us.

Creating peace takes effort. And the dozens of volunteers that comprise Advoz’s team of mediators and facilitators know that. They often report feeling both exhausted and rewarded after a dialogue session. So do participants. They’re often reluctant to participate in dialogue at all because the outcome in uncertain. But despite the effort it entails, more people are seeking to work through conflict and crime through dialogue at Advoz.

Program growth from 2016-2018


“Over the past two years, demand for Advoz’s core services of restorative justice and family mediation has soared 40%”

Over the past two years, demand for Advoz’s core services of restorative justice and family mediation has soared 40% from 225 to 314 requests. Those additional 89 cases have begun outpacing our capacity to respond in a timely way. A new class of trained facilitators and mediators will increase Advoz’s capacity to help people in conflict create peace together. But as this opportunity unfolds, we face the critical question, can we respond to it?

As someone who understands the life-long community impact of creating peace with youth like Reme and families in a critical transition, you can also play a vital role sustaining it for someone else. We face an estimated additional 50 cases and $30,000 in cost during 2019. And we invite you to consider a making a special kind of contribution, a monthly “Sustaining Table gift” to sponsor one case in 2019 at $50/month ($600), over two years at $25/month or over six months at $100/month ($1,200).

Go to our special campaign page www.SustainingTable.org and join hundreds of courageous folks like Reme and Ramon in the hard work of creating peace.