Restoring Community

Two candidates for the IIRP Graduate School Master of Science in Restorative Practices, Claire Sinclair and Melissa Ash, have been awarded the first Shawn Szuch Scholarship.

Melissa Ash crop copyMelissa AshClaire Fall16 LR 1cropped CropClaire Sinclair

The IIRP faculty choose the scholarships recipients on the basis of their answers to these questions: How have you demonstrated persistence in the face of adversity? How are you applying what you’re learning to help make the world a better place? and How would a $1,000 scholarship help you in the pursuit of your studies?

Claire Sinclair, a kindergarten teacher in Maplewood, N.J., employs restorative practices in her class to enable the children to get to know each other and build empathy, holding talking circles twice daily for the children to share their thoughts and feelings.

Claire Sinclair and kindergarten class 2016 2017Claire Sinclair and her kindergarten class 2016-2017

"When we expose younger children to restorative practices we can help them become compassionate human beings," she explains. "It is my hope that these children can use what they learn as they grow up into benevolent individuals, creating an empathetic and caring society." She has also shared restorative practices with others in her school. Most of the teachers are now using circles in their classrooms to build community and relationships.

Claire has been a teacher for 21 years. She grew up in Maplewood and teaches in the same classroom where she herself attended kindergarten. She commends her hometown for welcoming a wide range of cultures, races, incomes and sexualities.

Melissa Ash, of Easton, Pa., an outreach educator at Lehigh Valley Crime Victims Council, in Allentown, Pa., runs workshops in middle and high schools to help students understand violence, harassment and bullying and identify some of the signs to prevent such incidents from happening. Her goal is to help students maintain physical and emotional safety.

The teens in Melissa's classes become very engaged in discussions on topics like sexual, dating and internet violence and cyberbullying. "I love working with adolescents," she affirms. "Restorative practices has enabled me to really learn from the kids. I always thought I listened well, but through IIRP courses I realized I had been making a lot of assumptions about what the kids thought. Now I am able to listen and hear what people are truly saying, rather than focusing on formulating my own answers. This enables the class to actually have a discussion. They really get behind their opinions, and they get to know each other better."

The Shawn Szuch Scholarship is awarded to a candidate pursuing the Master of Science in Restorative Practices. It was established by a donor to honor the memory of Shawn Szuch, a young man who overcame adversity with courage and determination and gave his life for his country.

IIRP Graduate School teaches students to build relationships, resolve conflict constructively and lead by empowering others. During their studies, they are able to develop an international network of professionals who share their commitment to positively influencing human behavior and civil society. Through hybrid and online courses, the IIRP offers a Master of Science and Graduate Certificate in Restorative Practices to professionals in education, criminal justice, social services, workplace management and other fields.

Restorative practices is an emerging social science that studies how to restore and develop social capital, social discipline, emotional well-being and civic engagement through participatory learning and decision-making.