The Dayton Mediation Center was established by the city in 1987, “in an effort to ease the impact of community conflicts on public resources.” The center intervenes in conflicts between residents, neighborhood organizations, businesses, employers and employees, schools, law enforcement agencies and even the Dayton court system.
Trisha Werts has been with the center for 18 years, and while she mainly works with separated or divorced parents raising children, she's also one of the program's lead mediation trainers.
After a practice session, Werts says role-playing is extremely important for future mediators. Werks says the mediation process offered by the center provides people in dispute a more personal approach to problem-solving.
“And I think it also gives people that you need to talk to about things that they don’t get to talk about at court," an opportunity to communicate differently, she says.
"Court is a structured place where there’s a specific way things happen ... and so here they can talk about anything and everything that they want to talk about and that’s not always the case in other places that they go to get their conflicts resolved.”
“I can talk all day long about things but until they actually experience it for themselves they won’t have a full grasp of it,” she says. “So we do role-playing to really give them the opportunity to experience what it’s going to be like, sit at the table, to be a mediator to try to get it and come into a conversation where people are in conflict and heated, and try to figure out what does that look like and what does it feel like, so that the next time when they actually go into real mediation they’ll feel more comfortable.”
Cherise Hairston has spent more than 20 years working in the field of conflict resolution.
As the center’s volunteer coordinator, she’s responsible for the roughly 70 mediation specialists the center handles annually. Each year, those volunteers participate in more than a thousand disputes.
Hairston says, still, she wishes they could do more.
“They can call the police and they often call the police multiple times,” she says. “They often get so upset with the person that it results of violence, so if there were a way to intervene in that situation before it bubbled up to those extremes, that’s really when it works. So, it is important for people to know that we’re a resource and that if they’re having a situation with a family member, a coworker, a neighbor and they’ve tried to resolve it, that that’s how we can help. So, our numbers should actually be higher but unfortunately this idea of sitting down and talking with someone when you’re mad and upset with them is not a natural impulse. So that’s part of the challenge.”
Aaron Primm is a former Math teacher who now works at the center as a mediation specialist. He says the job has provided him with an avenue to continue public service.
“And I’ve always had that heart of service for others, and so whether I was a teacher or now as a mediator I’ve always related to others and wanted to help and serve others and so this just feels as if it’s a natural progression."
When asked how mediation specialists know if they're doing a good job, Primm cites the experiences relayed to the center by the building's security guard, Don.
“He’s got vision. And when I say that, he was able to see or recognize that when people first got on the elevator to come up to mediation that they were very closed off and they were not on the same page clearly, but upon coming back down the elevator, he saw that people were talking to each other, relating to each other and laughing, joking. So these are some ways that we’re able to see, because we get this feedback from others,” he says.
The volunteers trained over the summer have now joined the ranks of mediation specialists in Dayton working to help ease some of the many conflicts people often experience in daily life.
And it’s worth noting that using the center to resolve disputes can be less costly than other measures. On Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, the mediation center will close the application process for its fall classes. The center's annual fundraiser, Eat, Create, and Meditate - a night of food, yoga, and art - takes place on September 07, 2018. The event supports DMC's Women's Peer Mediation Program.