***August 9, 2017 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

IIRP Graduate School Awards First Shawn Suzch Scholarships, Supporting Innovative, Aspirational Students

Melissa Ash crop copyMelissa AshClaire Fall16 LR 1cropped CropClaire SinclairClaire Sinclair, a kindergarten teacher in Maplewood, N.J., and Melissa Ash, of Easton, Pa., an outreach educator at Lehigh Valley Crime Victims Council, have been awarded the first annual Shawn Suzch Scholarships by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) Graduate School.

Claire employs restorative practices in her kindergarten class to enable the children to get to know each other and build empathy, holding "circles" twice daily.

"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.

Melissa runs workshops in middle and high schools to help students understand violence, harassment and bullying and identify some of the signs to prevent such occurrences 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 dating 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 I realized I had been making a lot of assumptions about what the kids thought. Now I allow the class to actually have a discussion. They really get behind their opinions, and they get to know each other better."

The Shawn Suzch Scholarship is awarded to a candidate pursing a Master of Science in Restorative Practices. The scholarships are in memory of Shawn Suzch, a young man who overcame adversity with courage and determination and gave his life for his country.

The International Institute for Restorative Practices (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.

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Joe Roy 400x400

"We can't expel ourselves to safer schools. We need to build positive relationships to get ourselves there."

Joe Roy, Ed.D., Superintendent, Bethlehem Area School District