Emily Stanton, MA ’00
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Emily Stanton met Hedley Abernathy – the man who became her husband and then a fellow graduate of CJP – while both were trying to help young people in Northern Ireland to embrace alternatives to violence.
Emily, an American, was the first of the two to plunge into peacebuilding. In 1994-95, she lived as a volunteer at the Corrymeela Community, a peace and reconciliation center in a rural area of Northern Ireland.
Emily then met two Mennonite Central Committee volunteers in Northern Ireland, John and Naomi Lederach. Learning that Emily was interested in going to graduate school to study conflict resolution, they said, “You should look at EMU. Our son [John Paul Lederach] has just started up an MA in Conflict Transformation there.”
Upon completing her MA at EMU in 2000, Emily headed back to Northern Ireland as a Mennonite Board of Missions volunteer. She developed a pilot program to introduce conflict transformation training and restorative justice practices into a half-dozen schools in North Belfast. That’s when she met Hedley, who was a youth worker in North Belfast.
They married in 2003 and came to the United States so that Hedley too could earn a master’s degree at CJP. Here Emily worked with youth in various ways: teaching courses, helping with an alternative education program for at-risk middle school children, and fundraising for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Upon Hedley’s graduation in 2006, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where Hedley worked for Catholic Relief Services.
In 2008, the couple and their two young sons re-settled in Northern Ireland, where Hedley took a job with WAVE Trauma Centre, an organization that supports people bereaved or traumatized by violence. WAVE has close ties to CJP; several dozen WAVE personnel have attended EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute since 1996.
Emily does periodic work in the conflict transformation field, such as co-facilitating a Youth STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) at WAVE. But, while the children are young, she and Hadley have agreed that Emily will be their primary caregiver.