EASTON — There was plenty to celebrate at Mid Shore Community Mediation Center Wednesday, July 10, as volunteers, staff, community members and local government representatives alike came together to welcome Jenn Williams as the newly appointed center director and officially open the center’s new location on Brooks Drive in Easton.
Williams grew up on the Eastern Shore, graduated from St Michaels High School and now lives in Royal Oak. She attended Hood College and earned her master’s degree in conflict resolution from Salisbury University.
Williams began working at Mid Shore Community Mediation Center in 2012. She partnered with leadership in the Dorchester County Public School system to create a nationally recognized school-based mediation program, the Peace Team. The program is a service that enables professionally trained mediators to provide mediation services to students, staff and families, both in community settings and in school buildings during the school day.
This school-community collaboration is a model for other districts throughout the state and will continue into its ninth school year this fall.
Williams describes herself as “conflict competent” and loves the work she does
“I’ve combined my academic foundations with the practical tools I gained in basic mediation training to, I hope, become an effective conflict interventionist,” she said. “It is both so humbling and rewarding to support people through difficult conversations. To hold space for people to communicate freely, to be able to listen to those people without judgment or agenda — it’s really an incredible experience.”
Dr. Lorig Charkoudian, director of Community Mediation Maryland and Maryland delegate, was on hand to help open the new building and welcome Williams.
“Jenn is a skillful, experienced mediator and an entrepreneur,” Charkoudian said. “I’m delighted to welcome her in her new role as director and look forward to what she will achieve. I know it will be good for Eastern Shore communities.”
Williams — along with her staff team, Jessica Basom and Abby Hastings, both also graduates of Salisbury University’s Conflict Resolution Department — has big plans for the center. New programs are reaching people re-entering their communities from incarceration, as well as individuals who are in recovery from substance abuse addiction.
“Research on the impact of mediation for people leaving incarceration shows that even one session reduces the likelihood of recidivism (re-incarceration) by 10%,” Williams said. “It is our hope to have similar impacts on individuals and families in the recovery process. “
Colleen Kennedy, a substance use disorder specialist working in the Caroline County Detention Center, is enthusiastic about the impact of the addiction recovery and re-entry mediation initiatives.
“I have already seen the Mid Shore Mediation program act as a catalyst for individuals in recovery to begin their healing process during a lonely and difficult time,” she said. “This program benefits not only the individuals reentering the community but also the community as a whole.”
These new programs join the Parenting Plan, Adult Guardianship and community-focused mediations the center has been offering since 2005.
On average, the center holds more than 400 mediations each year. Most mediations are facilitated by community members who have volunteered their time and skills to undergo professionally training to facilitate conversations effectively. Of all the situations brought to mediation, eight out of 10 achieve resolution through the process, and regardless of whether an agreement was reached, nearly 85% of mediation participants say they were able to express themselves and feel heard during mediation.
Mid Shore Community Mediation Center is a not-for-profit organization offering no-cost mediation for residents of Dorchester, Caroline, and Talbot counties. Community Mediation is voluntary, confidential and non-judgmental.
To request mediation, become a volunteer mediator or donate, visit www.midshore mediation.org or call 410-820-5553.