ESJ P(E)ACE Rally promotes conflict resolution

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, November 13, 2019

RESERVE — Tammy Houston, District 3 Councilwoman-elect, was part of the first sophomore class to walk through the doors of East St. John High School in 1979, when the paint was still fresh on the walls. The campus on Airline Highway in Reserve was brand new, and she said all who attended took pride in the school.

“When I came through East St. John High School, fights were not something that occurred,” Houston said. “If we did have fights, it might have been one fight a year, maybe two. We went to the higher authorities if there was a problem so they could solve it.”

Houston was one of the speakers at the recent P(E)ACE Rally at East St. John High School. Held by Teche Action Clinic, the event was aimed to promote conflict resolution strategies for a healthier, peace-filled school environment.

Students enjoy field day festivities during Friday’s P(E)ACE Rally.

St. John School-based Health Centers Director Tyren Snyder was the main organizer of the P(E)ACE Rally. He hoped the event would also serve as a launching pad for students to understand the importance of anger management and seeking help through counseling.

G’Nell Hall, LPC, represented the Teche Action clinic health center on East St. John’s campus. She invited students to sign up for anger management classes during lunch breaks.

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Hall said, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means to arrive at that goal.”

Lieutenant Graylin Burl teaches students to focus on their own goals instead of getting caught up in drama.

Hall asked students to raise their hands if they have ever had an angry outburst. Seconds later, the gym was filled with raised hands.

“East St. John High School is my alma mater, and I would like to become part of this great movement of tranquility,” Hall said. “It’s okay to be angry. I’m not saying to suppress your feelings of anger. The anger management group is designed to teach students how to employ anger management techniques and to change their reactions and feelings to anger. It will also help students to make good decisions and avoid conflict.”

Lieutenant Graylin Burl of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office said the key to ending school-based violence is simple. He urged students to focus on their academic goals and future plans.

“Look at the man or the woman in the mirror,” Burl said. “You have no time to worry about what the person next to you is saying. You have no time to get involved in the process that leads to violence.”

Burl told students that violence is counteractive to the success of St. John Parish.

“We are a community,” Burl said. “We are St. John Parish. We are one.”

Parish President Natalie Robottom tells students to use social media for good, rather than starting conflict with others.

Outgoing Parish President Natalie Robottom recalled working at East St. John High as a speech therapist before she was elected to lead St. John. She was disappointed to hear that a peace rally was necessary, and she reminded students that what happens at the high school reflects on St. John the Baptist Parish’s reputation.

“We all get angry, and if you hide that anger or keep it inside, bad things happen,” Robottom said. “What Teche is proposing is a way to help you all with that anger. Anger is natural. Turning anger into conflicts and fights and injuries is not normal.”

Robottom and Burl pointed out that social media sparks a lot of conflicts inside school walls.

“Take advantage of your resources and use the Internet for something positive,” Robottom said. “You have opportunities way beyond what we ever had.”

Other featured presenters included St. John Assessor Lucien Gauff III, host Jonathan “JB” Stewart of The Movement and Joseph “Joe” Harris of the Terrebone Parish Juvenile Justice Complex.
During the latter half of the event, students were released from the gymnasium onto the school courtyard for a field day featuring food, music, activities, inflatables and obstacle course competitions.

Teche Action Clinic has been in operation for 45 years, serving St. John, Assumption, Lafourche and St. Mary parishes. The school-based health centers at East St. John, West St. John Elementary and LaPlace Elementary are entering their fourth year of operation.

For more information on anger management opportunities, call the East St. John Teche Action Clinic at 985-536-6492.

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