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Internship Report: Tiffany Cornelius (MA '13)

Restorative Justice Intern - Littleton Public Schools - Option Pathways Alternative Secondary Program

 
Tiffany Cornelius (MA '13) Passionate about both youth education and conflict resolution, Tiffany Cornelius (MA'13) started her internship with Littleton Public Schools (LPS) in December of 2013. Cornelius specifically interns with the LPS Option Pathways Alternative Secondary Program through their restorative justice program.

The LPS alternative school's vision is to create a "purposeful community that values meaningful relationships, an engaging learning environment, and a dedication to academic and personal success," (LPS Option Pathways Alternative Secondary Program). Providing a variety of approaches, these programs aim to serve students who desire or need a more relational approach to learning. The LPS alternative secondary school program includes the Options component for 10th-12th grades and the Pathways components for grades 7th through 9th. These features include smaller class sizes, Restorative Practices/Empathy-Building classes, community service opportunities, and individual academic intervention. Student-teacher interactions are grounded in evidence-based research with needs-based instruction emphasizing the creation of a Personal Learning Profile for each student. Grounded in experiential learning, students are empowered to succeed in a unique environment that relies on a strong sense of community.

Passionate about both youth education and conflict resolution, Tiffany Cornelius (MA'13) started her internship with Littleton Public Schools (LPS) in December of 2013. Cornelius specifically interns with the LPS Option Pathways Alternative Secondary Program through their restorative justice program.

The LPS alternative school's vision is to create a "purposeful community that values meaningful relationships, an engaging learning environment, and a dedication to academic and personal success," (LPS Option Pathways Alternative Secondary Program). Providing a variety of approaches, these programs aim to serve students who desire or need a more relational approach to learning. The LPS alternative secondary school program includes the Options component for 10th-12th grades and the Pathways components for grades 7th through 9th. These features include smaller class sizes, Restorative Practices/Empathy-Building classes, community service opportunities, and individual academic intervention. Student-teacher interactions are grounded in evidence-based research with needs-based instruction emphasizing the creation of a Personal Learning Profile for each student. Grounded in experiential learning, students are empowered to succeed in a unique environment that relies on a strong sense of community.

Early on in her internship, Cornelius was already building upon the knowledge base she had developed in her conflict resolution classes at DU. Cornelius reflected that most memorable responsibilities for her to date includes helping 7th graders build social skills, encouraging conflict resolution skills among high school students, and generally promoting an ethos of leadership among students.

Cornelius has experienced students and staff alike express their gratitude and openness to the practices in conflict resolution and restorative justice that she brings to the learning community. Along with implementing conflict resolution techniques, Tiffany has identified collaboration as integral to building an environment of understanding and listening. While important in every setting, these features are even more necessary when interacting with students who need a more relational approach to learning.

While staff at the LPS alternative school operated more relationally with students, the process of integrating restorative justice into the school system continues to be challenging. These challenges are often structural because restorative justice techniques remain relatively new to school administrations. Cornelius believes it is still essential that LPS continue to increase staff's exposure to conflict engagement practices and ideals.

Throughout her graduate school career in the conflict resolution program, Tiffany experienced previous conflict resolution internships at the Children Museum and the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of Denver (VORP) as well as shadowing in the Denver Public School system doing restorative justice practices. Tiffany connected to the LPS alternative schools through a teacher at Arapahoe High School where she had volunteered to help as a mediator for a mock mediation. She saw the LPS alternative schools as a perfect opportunity to build her experience applying her skills in conflict resolution to an area she is passionate about.

Cornelius pointed out that it is alright if a student does not know exactly what he or she wants to do when beginning their internship search. She states, "Even if it is not what you want to pursue in the long run, you can learn about yourself". For Cornelius, her previous experiences working alongside other people and taking on new internship responsibilities had been an integral part of discerning what she actually enjoyed and wanted for this current internship experience.

Emphasizing the importance of pairing conflict resolution, which is a general field, with an issue, or population that already makes you passionate, Cornelius says, "I knew I wanted to work with youth and or education. I networked, talked to my professors, and made connections with people already working in occupations that combined conflict resolution with education." It was through this continual process of networking and exploring opportunities that Tiffany was able to find an internship with LPS alternative schools and begin actively engaging in a field that really interests her.

Cornelius explains, "because conflict resolution is an emerging field, internships often still need to be searched for in combination with other fields or areas of interest". "It is absolutely vital to think outside the box and consider how you can market yourself to new fields," she stated. While the internship and employment searches are daunting, she encourages that "it is rewarding if you are creative, persistent, and bold in finding (and even proposing) internships that join your passions with conflict resolution." Cornelius confesses, "I was interested in a field in which no one else in my cohort was interested. But I continued to network and seek out what I knew mattered to me."

When asked about the most important part of an internship, Tiffany responded, "Being willing to grow and learn from an internship, whether it is a good or bad experience, is the most important part for me." Tiffany continues, "I learned that persistence in pursuing your passions actually pays off, even if it takes a while."

Tiffany Cornelius can be contacted at cornelius.t.e@gmail.com.

--Jennifer Hankel