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The Nurturing Inclusive Community Environment (NICE) Program - An Answer To Ending School Violence & Bullying in America

NICE is a social-emotional support program that works to decrease school violence and improve cultural relations and academic achievement.

Photo of Diana Wege
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

According to a recent UCLA study, anxiety and hostility in U.S. high schools, specifically towards immigrant students, have worsened since Trump became president and it's had a profound impact on the student learning process. Incidents of school violence, conflict, and bullying are on the rise in schools across the country. To best address this issue, the Nurturing Inclusive Community Environment (NICE) Program, a collaboration between We Oppose Violence Everywhere Now (WOVEN), Creative Response to Conflict (CRC), and the East Ramapo Central School District (ERCSD), helps decrease violence in schools, increase cultural tolerance, and improve student academic achievement.

The NICE program is a groundbreaking program that integrates school curricula with restorative justice techniques to make schools a safe place to learn using Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) tools that help students manage their emotions, work with others, and set goals. NICE members facilitate mediations, community-building circles, conflict resolution, and counseling sessions to support student's social, emotional, and academic growth. NICE also provides intensive leadership development training that expands the capacity of individuals to build inclusively supportive communities.


The NICE program will serve economically disadvantaged students of color who are English Language Learners and recent immigrants from Central America and Haiti. Student groups will use a restorative approach to increase positive connections between immigrant and non-immigrant students, build on personal strengths, and strengthen resiliency skills. One of the main challenges we will address is bridging the disconnect and animosity between new arrival immigrant students with Latinos and other races of students who were born in the United States.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are students ages 13-20 who recently migrated to Spring Valley, NY from Central America and Haiti. ERCSD is like no other school district in the entire state of New York. Students are diverse, representing 47 different nations. Nearly 77.3% of the students are from Latin nations. They also have the third largest Haitian/Creole population in the nation, ranking behind only New York City and Miami. Studies show that the average high school graduation rate of ELL student's is 19% lower than the national average. Many students are illiterate in native languages making it difficult to teach. Given the additional challenges immigrant English learner students face — including homelessness, separation from their parents due to deportation and, of course, language and cultural barriers, programs like the NICE program are crucial. When schools are unable to tend to their student body's social and emotional needs, it becomes nearly impossible to focus on academic success.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The NICE program is unique because it is the only program that integrates social-emotional learning (SEL) with conflict resolution methods and unlike most schools, we provide full-time staff to focus on providing SEL support to students.

The field of conflict resolution developed from non-violence, peace, social justice, and mediation movements. In contrast, the field of SEL, was influenced by child mental health studies of resiliency that focused on the importance of enhancing social-emotional competencies. These programs are usually separated but the NICE model integrates both methods into a single program. There is no other program in the country like it.

Most schools in the country lack the ability to dedicate full-time school-based employees to SEL. Teachers face difficulties with finding time to devote to SEL lessons. Our program stands out because we provide a team of people which includes six staff members working in each school to support the needs of the students.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We Oppose Violence Everywhere Now (WOVEN) and Creative Response to Conflict (CRC) are two local nonprofits partnering to end school violence and support students' emotional and social needs. WOVEN and CRC have a combined total of 30 years of experience in the field. In 1998, seven months before the Columbine shootings, we began working together to bring attention, funding and credibility to conflict resolution, bullying prevention and bias awareness programs in public schools. http://nicesystem

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years
  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Diana Wege, Founder of the NICE program, was inspired to develop the program after watching Tony and Pulitzer Prize nominee Anna Deavere Smith film "Notes From The Field." The HBO Film presentation dramatizes accounts of America’s school-to-prison pipeline. Diana, with the help of Priscilla Prutzman’s expertise, felt compelled to develop a program that would support children by replacing punitive disciplinary actions with emotional support programs to help build necessary life skills.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

The NICE programs goal of peace has been influenced by the increase of school violence across the United States, in addition to the increase of hostility and intolerance towards immigrant students enrolled in the American school system. Prosperity has been impacted by political unrest between legislators who stubbornly remain in an ideological gridlock about solutions to end school violence. These legislators are also compromising prosperity by passing discriminatory legislation and cutting funds to programs that impacts the wellbeing of children and families who have migrated to the United States from other countries. Planet includes the environmental racism that our students endured in their home countries where they were socially and racially marginalized and subjected to disproportionate exposure to environmental disasters and the denial of access to sources of ecological benefits.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

This NICE program was created through a partnership between We Oppose Violence Everywhere Now, Inc. (WOVEN) and Creative Response to Conflict (CRC), two nonprofit organizations working in the community to promote peace and prosperity. Considering that our intention is to reach full scale roll out with the goal of replicating the model in schools across the country, the NICE program has identified key stakeholders to partner with in this expansion.

The program is currently partnering with Columbia University researchers and the model is being recorded by Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida, Faculty and Academic Director of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Columbia University. In addition to quantify the successes of the program, the research team will create a replicable and customizable model that other schools can follow. So far, the NICE program has garnered support from multiple school districts, several United States Senators, and the Wege Foundation.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

As previously stated, the school district we serve is like no other school district in the entire state of New York, representing 47 different nations. Nearly 77.3% of the student body is from Spanish speaking, Latin American nations. It also houses the third largest Haitian/Creole population in the nation, ranking behind only New York City and Miami. There is a great need for social and emotional support programs for students who are navigating a new country, new language and a new school.

Geographic Focus

Newly arrived students from Haiti and Central America.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

A pilot of the NICE program has already been implemented in two high schools in the East Ramapo school district; however, the timeline for program expansion and improvements can be implemented within a 36 month period.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

N/A
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Attachments (4)

NICE_User Experience Guide.pdf

NICE program user experience guide.

NICE Charts Bridge Builder Grant.pdf

Charts showing decrease in visits to the principal's office due to behavioral issues and a decrease in failing grades since the implementation of the NICE program.

Ramapo Review Charts.pdf

Charts showing how Ramapo H.S. students utilize the NICE program.

Spring Valley Review Charts.pdf

Charts showing how Spring Valley H.S. utilizes the NICE program.

17 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Shravya Amarnath
Team

Good Initiative

Photo of Samar Hasan
Team

This is a great initiative, especially in light of the increase in shootings in schools.

Photo of Hadi Shamieh
Team

Amazing initiative. Communication (and connection) beyond words and language is key to a sustainable future. Your project complements our project titled PraxEco and has matching long-term objectives. I wish you the best of luck.

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
Team

Hi Diana Wege 

I am from Nairobi, Kenya and we are starting to think about how we can develop a trauma-informed conflict transformation curriculum for high schools here in Kenya and E. Africa. This is a very interesting model which speaks to both our conflict transformation goals and also to the development of resiliency and the social-emotional competencies. We would love to learn more about your work and the curriculum.

Thanks. Angi.

Photo of Diana Wege
Team

Dear Angi Yoder Maina,
I am so moved by your comment. Actually I burst into tears. I've been so focused on solving problems in the US school system that I had no idea NICE would be needed globally.
Diana

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
Team

Diana Wege 

Totally needed globally!!! I would really love to come and learn more about this program when I am in the US. Keep up the good work.

Angi.

Photo of Diana Wege
Team

Angi!

I forgot to mention that I am going to be in Nairobi starting July 9 with Syracuse University School of Education till July 16.

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
Team

Wow.

I am off on 9th for a couple of weeks to Ethiopia.. However would love to link you up with my team.

Angi.

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
Team

Also this is the community work we are doing...

Kumekucha: It's a New Dawn  -- you will see why we really identify with NICE

Angi.

Photo of Irene Márquez
Team

Hi Diana,
Congratulations on your proposal. It is aiming straight to the heart. Unfortunatelly
violence and bullying is a growing problem everywhere in the world. Even more now
with refugees looking for asylum here in Europe. We find ourselves trying to help, but
many times failing to do so with the most vulnerable, children.

If possible, we would love to learn a bit more about how you are able to integrate
social-emotional learning and conflict resolution problems in your weekly routines. Do
you have a special time or class you use for these lessons? or, on the contrary, all these
methods are integrated into an average ELL class?

We wish you all the best with your project, which is already helping in your
community.

Photo of Jean-Marc Mercy
Team

Hello @Diana Wege. It's great to have you in this challenge. This sounds like a great idea! I am curious to know how many students have been impacted so far by your program. What are their testimonies? What are the lessons learned from your pilot? @Ashley Tillman: do you have any additional comment for Diana?

Photo of Ashley Tillman
Team

Hi Diana Wege great to have you in the Challenge. I'd also be curious to hear your thoughts to Jean-Marc Mercy 's question. Would also love to learn a little more about how you see your work impacting prosperity and planet? Additionally do you have a website?

Photo of Dr. Sukumar Kar
Team

Hi Diana, I have gone through the idea and it is a fruitful way for students to cope with the recent challenges.

Photo of Elizabeth .
Team

I think this is a truly fantastic idea and if successful can really be adapted into schools around the world. Obviously it is really important to test this and see if it does work in the way you want it to. I would be interested in following how this works out for you.

Photo of Scott Goyette
Team

Hello Diana,

I think your program looks awesome. you seem to have some smart techniques to create better school cultures. I would love to hear more. Our program could also likely assist you in your efforts. Go Love Now!

With Gratitude and Love,

Scott

Photo of Liz Taylor-Kerr
Team

Excellent idea. This is a subject very close to my heart and the long term implications are terrible. Well done!

Photo of Serene Dardari
Team

Dear Diana

This is a fantastic program and NICE is much needed here in Lebanon. There is a lot of tension in schools and public spaces between Lebanese ( host) and Syrian ( refugee) children due to past traumatic history, social stigma and ignorance. Bullying is almost socially accepted in this case and that is why I believe that such programs do not stop with educating the children, but rather the entire community.

Best of luck

Serene