TEENS COME TOGETHER FOR PEACEMAKERS 2001

November 03, 2001 12:00 am
DO YOU SWEAR? Being good jurors involves swearing to carry out the duties of the job, would-be members of teen courts learned Thursday. They were participating in a sample teen court case at Eastern's Loso Hall during Peacemakers 2001. (Observer Photos/T.L PETERSEN).
DO YOU SWEAR? Being good jurors involves swearing to carry out the duties of the job, would-be members of teen courts learned Thursday. They were participating in a sample teen court case at Eastern's Loso Hall during Peacemakers 2001. (Observer Photos/T.L PETERSEN).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Mixed in among the classrooms of Eastern Oregon University Thursday were teen-agers thinking about drugs and alcohol, problem solving, dating and violence.

And maybe a few thinking about college in the not-too-distant future.

About 84 teens and a few dozen adults met for Peacemakers 2001, a day-long conference sponsored by Oregon courts, mediation services and other groups.

The attendance was less than what had been hoped for, and was down by more than 50 from last year. But those able to come from Union County and surrounding counties did see a variety of ideas and skills for making better homes, schools and communities.

The teens had a chance to join in more than 20 workshops during the day. The workshops ranged from learning how a teen court is set up and operates by role-playing to talking about safe dating, college planning, learning to cope with grief and loss, and more.

During a session about teen courts, a classroom was turned into a courtroom under the direction of Jim Brougham, Union Countys juvenile department director. Members of the newly formed court were sworn in, and the prosecutor and defense attorney presented their case.

The point was that any school court could hold fair teen courts with teen jurors deciding appropriate restitution or punishment.

In a session led by Joan Howard, mediation services coordinator from Umatilla County, the discussion focused more on feelings and how to help.

One girl had recently lost her beloved horse and was feeling guilt at the death. Another girl talked about the loss and grief someone she knew had suffered when he lost a girlfriend.

Yet another teen talked about having to attend the funeral of a great-uncle that she hadnt known.

The emotions created by all these situations are understandable and can be handled in different ways, Howard showed.

The level of intensity tells you how deep your level of grief is, she said, and its about the bond you had.

Its OK, she said, for you not to feel bad at some losses that may be difficult for another family member.

Howards advise was that since we are a species of doing, we reach out and offer a kind work, or take on anothers task, at least for a bit.

And so the day went, until after lunch.

Then the six members of Portlands Sojourn Theater took the MacKenzie Theatre stage to dance, act, mime, shout and question the attitudes toward teens, and teens attitudes and feelings about themselves.

After a break for two gospel songs performed by the Eastern Oregon University Chamber Choir, the teens talked about their reactions to the Sojourn performance with the troupe.

The teens identified more myths about teens, and talked about how teens feel and what they know. They understood Sojourns stories about identity and interpreted some of the show as talking about suicide.

And violence. They understand, clearly, the messages about violence and desensitizing the self to violence.

A message many of the teens liked and understood was the question of how girls and boys learn how to behave with each other.