May 28, 2018
I experienced an amazing event today at the Columbus College of Art Design (CCAD), the hosts of an Erase the Space event. Erase the Space is a civil program that brings high school students together from different communities and schools in the Columbus area to talk about common challenges students have, through the lens of civil discourse.
Amelia and Derek, teachers from South High School and Liberty High School came up with this innovative idea through their Master’s degree fellowship at the Bread Loaf School of English. Little did they know that the idea they conceived would draw the attention and support of the Columbus Foundation, teachers from across Columbus and the faculty and graduate students from CCAD.
When Derek first reached out to Compassionate Communication Center of Ohio (CCCO) a few months ago, he shared that he was deeply inspired by the work of Compassionate Nonviolent Communication (NVC). He had been reading and watching videos about the work online. He told me he wanted the principles and practices of NVC to be a central part of supporting students in having conversations across social, economic and cultural differences. He imagined NVC could offer much-needed core competencies on empathic listening, a method of listening in which the other person feels heard, understood and confident to speak honestly from a compassionate stance.
It was interesting to see the commonalities of activities from the structural design teams at CCAD and NVC. The core of both practices is focusing on getting to the heart of the needs. The focus of the morning exercises were diving a little deeper into understanding the other students’ challenges while focusing on needs that motivate their behavior. The afternoon was spent immersed in collaborating and co-creating projects that will increase connections by advocating for equity and inclusion within central Ohio area.
Seeing 50 teens working together toward solutions for social justice issues from many social, economic and diverse backgrounds gives me hope for a world that can work for everyone.
A couple of the projects that really stood out for me were: “A Day in Your Shoes” where students would swap places for a day, following each other’s school schedules; and another is a series of cross-cultural gatherings at Columbus Parks and Recreation, where families can come together for job fairs and offer ideas for business ventures while their kids play at the park. There was a pulse of optimism and hopefulness present as we witnessed the teens from very diverse backgrounds immersed in creative ways of bringing neighbors and communities together.
This Erase the Space event is the grand finale of a year of establishing connections and commonalities, breaking down cultural barriers and diving deeper into challenging issues such as diversity, racism and access to resources that they face regularly and how they can make a difference by being stronger together rather than isolated into one way of thinking.
If you’d like to know more about Erase the Space please view their website at erasethespace.org.
Susanna Warren, Outreach and Program Director
Compassionate Communication Center of Ohio
Certified trainer with the International Center for Nonviolent Communication