Published: Feb. 11, 1998

Volunteers from the Boulder community and the University of Colorado at Boulder are joining forces to help prevent the type of violent behavior exhibited in the Hill area last May.

Dubbed the “Peacemakers Project,” the program will utilize trained volunteers to listen, discuss and intervene before issues mushroom into violence. The project is coordinated by the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center of Boulder.

With financial support from anonymous donors and CU-Boulder’s Parents Association, a part-time coordinator will be hired to organize and recruit volunteers and to plan and supervise program activities.

Peace Center staff member Carolyn Bninski said, “This program is an outgrowth of all the work and discussions since the May incidents on the Hill. One of the strengths of this community is citizen participation, so we decided to draw upon that strength to help resolve problems.”

The program has the support of CU-Boulder’s administration and police department, whose members participated in numerous community forums and meetings since last May.

“I’m especially pleased with this project’s emphasis on gaining input from neighbors, students, police, administrators, merchants, interested citizens, parents or others who care about the quality of life in our community,” said Ron Stump, CU-Boulder dean of students.

Bninski said the program’s volunteer staff will include numerous CU-Boulder students enrolled in courses that feature service-learning modules. Service-learning courses, offered through a variety of academic disciplines, provide the opportunity for students to learn by performing community service.

Bninski contacted the campus service-learning coordinator and has recruited several student volunteers. In addition, she has received commitments from student groups, such as fraternities and sororities, to provide needed help.

“But we still need volunteers from both the campus and community,” Bninski said. “We’d like to have between 25 and 50 trained individuals to help prevent and defuse volatile situations.” She said interested volunteers should contact the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center at (303) 444-6981.

Volunteers will receive monthly training sessions in nonviolent interventions. The next training session will be held Saturday, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m. at the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, 1520 Euclid, Boulder.

They will be asked to commit a few hours each week to accompany a partner into designated neighborhoods to talk to people about concerns or issues.

“Often, violence can be prevented simply by trying to address citizens’ grievances,” Bninski said. “We don’t expect to solve every problem, but hope to create ongoing interactions and a greater sense of community.”

Volunteers will bring information from neighborhood visits back to meetings with “Peacemaker” colleagues, and possible resolutions and action plans will be developed. Activities may include neighborhood forums, problem-solving meetings and seminars on dealing with community problems.

Also, Bninski said, if violence does erupt, on-call Peacemakers specially trained in techniques of nonviolent intervention will intercede in the hope of preventing bodily injury or death. “Obviously, this type of intervention will require extensive training and close work with the police,” she said.

“We have met with the Boulder police, who have expressed their support for the program. We look forward to working with them to help prevent the violent clashes that endanger people on all sides of a conflict.”