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Children's Aid conflict resolution classes got this bright teenager "hooked on Hope."

Rashida, 16, is full of superlatives and rapid-fire speech. Everything is “wow,” “yay” and “the best.” But if you listen carefully, the subjects of her enthusiasm are hardly those of a typical teenager.

"Oh, I loooove the conflict cycle,” she says. “It goes Conflict, Response, Consequences, one leads to the other, around and around. The key is how to change the cycle from a negative to a positive one.” Rashida is a peer trainer at The Children’s Aid Society’s Hope Leadership Academy and conflict resolution is not the only workshop topic that makes her eyes go wide with delight. Don’t get her started on cultural diversity: “Wow—the culture carousel is the best; it creates an organized debate on stereotypes.”

She explains her success as a trainer with modesty: “I just get people to see both sides.” But the truth is deeper. Through her participation in Hope, Rashida has developed a profound dedication to, as she puts it, “creating change.” And her vision for the world is more compelling than that of many heads of state: “If everyone in the world would take a conflict resolution workshop, things would be very different.”

Rashida professes to be “hooked on the [Hope] center,” and can be found there every day after school, from 3 to 8 PM. She’s joined several of our other programs and last year, she represented Children’s Aid in a delegation of youth who visited Germany.

Rashida is also passionate about performing; in her acting career she has shown her strongest dedication to the lessons she has learned at Hope. Her most recent role was in RIP: Revolution in Progress, a play written by a group of New York City youth. “We shared life stories and made a show about the real issues in our lives, like gang violence, drug dealing, racism, rape, and gay issues.” She found that her peer education experience enabled her to take the lead in group discussions, helping others talk through sensitive issues and negotiate conflicts.

Rashida is impatiently awaiting college. She wants to major in business and the performing arts. Then, she says, “I want to start my own program for youth. There are so many kids in the world who are so talented who never get the chance to express themselves.” We agree and we’re thankful to have found Rashida so she didn’t join those ranks. We are proud of her emotional courage and capacity for honest self-expression. They are, as she says, the foundations for “creating change.”