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Featured Grant Stories

YWCA Justice Circles

March 12, 2019

Katie Berkedal, Program DirectorBy Katie Berkedal, Program Director

La Crosse Community Foundation awarded a $40,000 grant to the YWCA for their Justice Circles program in 2018. Justice Circles provides an alternative approach to addressing conflict in schools, focusing on restoring relationships in lieu of just punishing students. This strategy helps to keep students in school and out of the juvenile justice system. The grant year just completed and here’s how this program made an impact:

  • In 2018, 323 students participated in the circle process facilitated by the YWCA
  • 45 students were trained this school year to facilitate Justice Circle discussions with peers
  • 94.5 percent of participants increased their knowledge of restorative justice
  • 88 percent of referred students felt more responsible for their actions
  • 84 percent of referred students felt that the circle helped them be more successful in school

Here’s a story from YWCA to illustrate how this process works:

“Over the past couple of years a local middle school girls’ basketball team has struggled with getting along, being extra aggressive on the court, and enduring racist comments from opposing team’s parents. The Athletic Director suggested that we support them in a circle for the upcoming season. 

The circles gave the players a voice in being able to talk about the incidents that had been happening, and gave them an opportunity to ask the adults in the room to back them up when they hear racist comments not only in the crowd at a game, but within the halls at school. Many of them felt nothing is ever done to stop these occurrences.

These circles were also a way for the players to talk about the areas in which they could take ownership for and how they can work together to create a more accepting and cohesive team.  Players took accountability for their own actions and then gave an example of how they would continue to support the other members of their team.”