The Dispute Resolution Center of Montgomery County held a “Conflict Resolution Day” on Oct. 25, in which 359th District Court Judge Kathleen Hamilton presented gifts, including ribbons, to close to 40 kids who were chosen the winners of the sixth annual Bookmark Art Contest. More than 2,000 kids entered the contest.
The Dispute Resolution Center of Montgomery County started in 1988, and its main mission is to resolve disputes in a calm and peaceful way, according to Judge Hamilton, a member of the Center’s Advisory Council.
“Your mediators don’t have an interest in either side. They are neutral and suggest to the parties that are mediating some options that they might not be able to think of themselves, because they are so buried deep in all the drama and everything else that is going on,” Hamilton said.
Elaine Roberts, executive director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Montgomery County, said the art contest has grown every year, and this year they had 70 schools throughout the County enter the contest including public, private and home schools.
The Dispute Resolution Center does not judge the contest.
“We want it to be a public consensus (on the winners), so we had 39 judges from 19 different entities, community leaders, come in and do what’s called blind judging,” Roberts said. “They don’t know the name of the school, the name of the child, anything about it, other than being able to look at the artwork.”
Roberts said they hear from the teachers all the time that during the six week the kids are working on the bookmarks, the discussion in the classrooms is amazing.
“As they come up with their anti-bullying messages – their creative ways to resolve disputes without violence – they talk to one another about what’s going on in their lives,” Roberts said. “They talk about things that they’d like to see change, and then they display it in the art, in a way that’s far more mature than their young years, and it enables the teachers to deal with a delicate subject, like bullying, in a fun and creative way. The kids open up and relax and express more during the six weeks.”
Julia Ferguson, an eighth-grader at McCullough Junior High, was the Chair’s Choice Winner of the Contest this year. She said the contest, with the message of anti-bullying, is important.
“It’s very important because one word can make a huge impact, and the more people do it (stop bullying), the less people get bullied,” Ferguson said.
Here are the winners of the contest.