James Mureithi, an IIRP graduate student and founder and executive director of Youth Promise Centre Kenya, has been awarded the Shawn Suzch scholarship. The center is associated with Urban Promise International, a Christian-based youth development organization that serves vulnerable children and teens in under-resourced communities around the world.
Located at Embu at the foot of Mount Kenya in Kenya, Africa, the Youth Promise Centre focuses on training in computer literacy, basic life skills, leadership and entrepreneurship for young people ranging from middle schoolers to post-college graduates. The programs empower students to develop their individual interests and talents to help them realize their potential and that of their community.
As a result of his studies, James has taken steps to implement restorative techniques at the Centre. He uses circles to on-board new students and staff, giving them an opportunity to express their goals and interests. When students commit infractions that formerly led them to being removed from the Centre, they now are invited to participate in restorative circles or conferences that allow them the space to express what is happening in their lives and make changes. These practices have reduced the number of expulsions and created a more open and trusting relationship with students.
James believes restorative practice is all about establishing good relationships. He views his investment in a degree from the IIRP Graduate School as an opportunity to gain and practice skills that directly enhance his students’ experiences at the Centre. He hopes to impart the skills he learns to his staff, so they in turn can help foster a restorative community culture and grow the roots of restorative practices in Kenya.
James first became interested in restorative practices in 2019 when he attended a four-day training at the IIRP in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The experience changed his perspective on how to interact with the youth in his community. His interest grew as he saw how restorative practices supported the mission of his nonprofit and the betterment of global society.
The Shawn Suzch scholarship is awarded each year in memory of Shawn Suzch, a young man who overcame adversity with courage and determination and gave his life for his country.