The National Day of Service is on Saturday, January 19, 2013.  This is an important day as it honors Dr. King’s life and deeds.   This year it is even more special because both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the Presidential Inauguration will occur on Monday, January 21, 2013.  The National Day of Service came about because President Barack Obama made it official.  We have been celebrating Dr. King’s birthday for 19 years officially.  President Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, made Dr. King’s birthday an official holiday.  The National Chairperson of the National Day of Service is Chelsea Clinton, daughter of President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 67th United States Secretary of State.

There are many ways you can volunteer in your community and even at school.  You don’t have to wait for a special day.  One of the ways is through the programs at Ward School such as Safety Squad, Mobile Unit, Student Store, Lunch Squad, Service Squad 1 and 2, and the Peer Mediation Program.  Besides volunteering in our community and for the United Service Organization (USO),   I am volunteering at school by being on the Safety Squad.  I have also participated for three years with the Peer Mediation Program.  I know I am not the only person who volunteers and I like the feeling of knowing that there are other people who serve our school, community, and country.

I interviewed Mrs. Tara Fishler who trained me to become a Peer Mediator.  The Peer Mediation Program has been at Ward for three years.  Mrs. Fishler’s business, “Customized Training Solutions” ( has been in business for ten years and she has been a Mediator for twenty years. She is a conflict resolution specialist.  A Peer Mediator is someone who is trained to help their peers solve conflict in a safe environment.  That means they work to help resolve problems and disputes.   Students at Ward who are trained by Mrs. Fishler wear blue vests on the playground and students who are in a conflict come to them for help.  Mrs. Fishler was trained as a Parent-Child Mediator in law school in New Hampshire.  She ran school mediation programs that for seven years for an agency before starting her own company.

I asked her how she became interested in Peer Mediation.   She said she had always wanted to work with children.  She had either wanted to become a Social Worker or a lawyer and she chose law.  While in law school she took a mediation course and decided to become a Mediator. I asked her, “How does Peer Mediation help kids?”   She said that it helps in three ways.  1.  For the students themselves, it helps them to solve conflicts, and remain calm within themselves.  They like to be able to help other students.  2.  It helps the disputants.  They have someone they trust their own age to talk to.  3.  It helps the school as a community because the teacher’s don’t have to solve all of the conflicts. I also asked her if she liked working with kids better than adults in Peer Mediation.  Mrs. Fishler said that she actually works with both but likes working in schools.  She said, “Working with kids, you give them skills they can have for the rest of their lives.  Working with teachers, they can pass those skills on to their students.”  My last question was about what Mrs. Fishler is doing for the National Day of Service.  She said that her temple is doing something on Sunday, and that it is also her wedding anniversary.  She made the point of saying, “Peer Mediators give up their time from playing to volunteer.  They give a lot of themselves.”  Mrs. Fishler volunteers her time for the Westchester Human Rights Commission in White Plains.

Peer Mediation is a valuable program and should continue at Ward because kids should have the opportunity to learn about skills that are essential for life.  When they graduate from training, they get the reward of self-confidence, helping their community, and working.  If the program continues, kids who graduate from Ward will be proud to be an alumnus.  Due to budget cuts this program might not be here next year.

Your Neighbor,


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