Dr. Deri Ronis is the lead trainer in SWAC's peer mediation program at Sarasota High School.
How did you first get involved with mediation? What drove you to become a mediation consultant?
Dr. Ronis: I first got involved with mediation back in the late 1980's in West Palm Beach when I enrolled in one of the first mediation certifications being offered for family mediators by the state of Florida in the 15th Judicial Circuit. Mediation was a relatively "new" idea that the courts were using. What drove me into this field is the belief that humans can use their words, actions and higher calling so to speak to create change in a positive direction.
In your years of work, is there a mediation experience that you are most proud of?
Dr.Ronis: I think one mediation experience that I am most humbled and proud of was when I received [a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for Palm Beach County] and was able to introduce and implement the Peer Mediation Program in the schools with two pilot schools.. I was also asked to help start a charter school in Delray Beach in 2000.
What has it been like working with New College students in the Sarasota School system?
Dr.Ronis: Working with New College students to implement peer mediation training in Sarasota High Schools has been like a dream come true. I have high hopes for New College student front line mediators and the direction that this program can go towards alleviating the stress on local campuses.
What makes this peer mediation program unique?
Dr.Ronis: What makes this peer mediation program unique is that there is no other program that brings college students to high schools. The New College students are much closer in age to the high school students, which makes them more relateable. This makes it easier for them to engage the kids in the mediation training. I'd say its a project that has taken about 5 years to be able to get support from the school district as well as from schools, but the movement is growing.
In the future, where do you see the program going?
Dr. Ronis: Eventually I would like to see every school develop a peer mediation and conflict resolution program because I think it's a great way to help end violence and bullying in the 21st century. This program in particular can spread mediation to Sarasota schools very easily, because of the special dynamic we have with the New College mediators. I'd also like to see more mediators coming on board for the training as well as incorporating county mediators.