Marquette University Center for Peacemaking Peace Works team

In mid-March 2020, shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Milwaukee schools shifted to virtual learning. Following this abrupt change, students and families, including those where Marquette University Peace Works is offered, anxiously awaited further announcements as schools rushed to implement distance learning and teachers hurriedly developed virtual classrooms. Peace Works, a sustainable peace education program implemented in partnership with several public and private schools in Milwaukee, helps students develop social-emotional skills such as resiliency and self-care, which are central to student success.

There was justifiable concern that social isolation and additional stresses of the pandemic and school closures would disproportionately harm already vulnerable students. This was an especially acute concern of Peace Works partner schools because many of their students are considered vulnerable. Furthermore, these challenges will likely impact young people’s mental health and social and emotional development long after the pandemic ends.

Given Peace Works’ established relationship with students and schools, the Peace Works team was uniquely positioned to help support the transition from traditional to virtual learning. The Peace Works team worked closely with partner schools throughout the difficult transition to ensure continued delivery of the Peace Works curriculum and relationship-building with students and families.

Over the past several months, Peace Works provided practical ways for students, families, and educators to cope with heightened challenges introduced or magnified by the pandemic. With the support of the Marquette University President’s Challenge grant, Peace Works is also building a toolkit to help teachers support student social, emotional, and mental health as they continue to navigate everyday challenges during the pandemic and prepare for potential long-term ramifications.

Marquette University has prepared a report examining the importance of Peace Works as well as its flexibility and adaptability. This includes the Peace Works team re-imagining the program’s traditional content delivery model and adapting it to meet the needs of students, staff, and families. Peace Works continues to develop new and creative ways of connecting with students, families, and educators. Access full report.