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Straus Youth Summit Convenes High School Students and Educators on Conflict Resolution

On Friday, December 11, the Straus Institute hosted Young Voices in Divided Times, an inaugural summit aimed at equipping high school students, educators and administrators with conflict resolution skills. Over 100 attendees, including 50 high schoolers from across the Southern California region, joined the virtual event, which featured a panel discussion, a training on navigating and responding to conflict, and strategy sessions for administrators, educators, and mediators.

"Young people are devising creative interventions to address long standing societal challenges, all amidst a global pandemic. This inaugural event begins our engagement with youth who are poised to become the next generation of community leaders and peacemakers," said organizer Aparna Gupta,associate director of professional development and external relations. This summit is part of the Straus Institute's Beyond the Dialogue initiative, which aims to advance justice through dispute resolution practice and principles. Judge Danny Weinstein, whose support has made Beyond the Dialogue possible, briefly joined the program to convey his enthusiasm for the event.

Managing Director Professor Sukhismranjit Singh, and Shaphan Roberts, director of the Dispute Resolution Program in the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, shared their insights on the role of young people in bridging understanding and not shying away from difficult issues. Professor Singh shared, "The young brain is incredibly creative. And over the years our brains become implicit and overt biases. Our goal is to channel this creativity and push it to the forefront of the conflict resolution movement and have the youth be the leaders." Roberts added, "I think how society resolves their conflicts speaks volumes about that society. And I believe that our youth are naturally more invested in the outcome because the future belongs to them."

The event brought together experienced practitioners from the Western Justice Center (WJC), an organization that strengthens Los Angeles communities by training youth, educators and community members on resolving conflict. Elissa Barrett, Executive Director for WJC shared, "This work is all about structure and systems. Otherwise, we're just having conversations. But how do we build the institutions and the infrastructure that is going to shift our society?" WJC Training Directors Shaune Gatlin and Arturo Magana trained attendees in an interactive and meaningful conflict resolution session.

Among the young voices in attendance were Straus students Kim Schulist and Payton Silket, who are earning their LLM and MDR respectively. Schulist, an accomplished litigator in the education arena, shared conflicts her clients encountered related to COVID-19. When asked about youth engagement on societal challenges, Silket shared, "The youth are not risking some of those other things like people who are further along in their careers may be risking. And so, that allows young people to be truth tellers and truth seekers...without being bogged down by some of the societal expectations." Schulist and Silket were joined by students from Malibu High School, Culver City High School, Pacific High School, Palisades Charter High School, as well as schools from the Bay Area and Arizona.