A Work in Progress by Tom Golebiewski

For the 14th story in our series of 20 stories celebrating Umoja’s Anniversary this year, we are excited to share with you a story that is happening right now. We asked one of our Umoja Restorative Justice Specialists, Tom Golebiewski, to tell us about the impact Umoja is having on a student in a partner high school currently. Here is what he shared...

“A couple of months ago, I was facilitating Community Building in a teacher’s classroom. As I circulated around the room, I noticed one of the students was drawing in his notebook; kind of doing some graffiti tagging. When I looked at it, I recognized his tag name (the pseudonym graffiti artists use to identify their work). I had seen it all around the school and the bathroom walls. I pulled him to the side and invited him to come to the Umoja Peace Room.

IMG_5135.JPGWhen he came by, we had a conversation about his passion for artwork and his love of graffiti. We talked about what he was getting out of it. We also talked about the fact that, really, he was impacting a lot of other people in terms of people having to clean up the graffiti and defacing property around the school. Through our conversation, we came to the agreement that he would stop tagging around school and that he would clean up the damage he’s caused. As a positive consequence, I gave him the opportunity to start on a peace mural in the Peace Room. He took the initiative, went and talked to the custodial staff, got an extension ladder to bring in, went to the principal to make sure the construction wouldn’t affect the wall, talked to all the art teachers, and started arriving at school at 6:30am to work on the mural.

He applied it to his International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme and turned it into his personal project.

muralcrop.jpgI’m really excited to see how the mural comes out (I’ll make sure to share updates and photos over the next few weeks)! I’m thrilled that we were able to take a situation where a student would normally be suspended, or in detention, or handled in a really punitive way, and channel it into something positive for him and for the school.”