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Youth with a View: Insight from Romeero, 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.


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

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.


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!


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.


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.