Group uses theater to help kids resolve conflict

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In the 2004-05 school year, funded with a county grant of nearly $500,000, Greensboro nonprofit Win-Win Resolutions provided more than a dozen middle and high schools in Guilford County with a program that uses interactive drama to teach students how to resolve conflicts.

That same year, the number of violations of the student code in those same schools fell 46 percent.

While it was one of several new initiatives that fell prey to $3 million in county budget cuts in the most recent school year, Win-Win is being considered for nearly $400,000 in funding this year to restore the program to those middle and high schools, says Robert Ankrom, director of development.

Win-Win, which has received the remainder of its funding mainly from foundations and corporations, also has begun its first-ever campaign to generate support from individuals.

The nonprofit has sent a mail appeal to nearly 5,000 people asking for $30 contributions to support a child in the program. The goal is to enlist 500 new members and generate $15,000.

Launched in January 2001 by Debra Vigliano, former director of education for the Community Theatre of Greensboro, Win-Win has provided conflict-resolution workshops for nearly 30,000 students in Guilford, Forsyth, Rockingham and Alamance counties.

Win-Win is chaired by Camille Payton, an attorney with the firm Ward Black Law, has a staff of three employees working full-time and one working part-time, and employs up to 35 professional counselors and theater instructors under contract who work in the schools.

For one period a day once a week for 12 to 15 weeks Win-Win offers its workshops in a range of settings.

The program might be offered to all students in a single grade at an assembly in the school auditorium or cafeteria, or to single classes in individual classrooms.

Led by professional counselors and theater instructors under contract with Win-Win, the workshops are based on scripts that address common types of conflicts students might face on any given day at school, at home or in other settings.

For elementary school students, the conflicts are set up using life-size puppets, and the students then ask questions and talk about possible solutions.

For students in middle school and high school, students take on roles in the conflict scenario, interact with one another, and work together to develop possible solutions.

The year it received county funding to offer its program in Guilford’s middle and high schools, Win-Win worked with the Center for Youth, Family and Community Partnerships at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to design a survey to track the program’s impact.

Working with a consultant who analyzes data from the state Department of Public Instruction for the schools in which it provided its workshops, Win-Win continues to analyze the impact of its program, and aims to use its findings to make the case to other school systems to offer Win-Win workshops.

Win-Win also offers a program after school or in the early evening for teachers and parents, particularly for students who face conflicts at home or in their neighborhoods.

Grants to Win-Win include $24,000 from the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation., $20,000 from the Weaver Foundation and $10,000 from American Express.

And Polo Ralph Lauren will be the title sponsor for Win-Win’s fourth annual Young Peacemakers Award banquet on September 11 to honor six local students.

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