The 12th Commencement of the IIRP Graduate School took place Sunday, July 21, 2019, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Fourteen recipients of the Master of Science in Restorative Practices — out of a class of 20 — travelled to attend the ceremony from as far away as Costa Rica, St. Lucia and the Yukon! The new graduates are involved in the fields of education, justice and the social services. Including the class of 2019, the IIRP has conferred 208 master's degrees.
Bill Ballantine, Chair of the IIRP Board of Trustees; John W. Bailie, Ph.D., IIRP President; and Craig W. Adamson, Ph.D., IIRP Provost, each offered welcome remarks to the friends and family attending and watching live on Facebook from all over the world.
Graduate Keisha Allen, Executive Director of the Training Institute for IIRP partner, Black Family Development, Inc., in Detroit, delivered an inspiring Commencement address. In a reflection on the power of "engagement," Keisha shared how that power has impacted her life and work.
First, her great-aunt engaged her by taking her in when her mother was on drugs and her father incarcerated. Then her ninth-grade English teacher engaged her when she was "smoking weed, skipping school and contemplating whether or not life was worth living."
Keisha stressed the urgency of engaging our young people, who "deserve a school-to-career pathway and not a school-to-prison pipeline." Engagement, she explained, requires three things: authenticity, creating an environment of resiliency and a willingness to teach what we know. She quoted an African Proverb that states, "When the children are not embraced by the village, they will burn it down to feel its warmth."
Ultimately, she declared, transformation in a young person's life doesn't happen because they encounter a restorative practitioner. It happens because we choose to engage.
You can hear Keisha's entire speech and watch the complete Commencement ceremony here.