Bringing a new sense of justice to multiple city venues – neighborhoods, courts and prisons, schools and more – is a challenge that requires focus, patience and an empowering spirit.
“One bite at a time. That’s all you can do,” said 2018 Peacebuilder of the Year Annette Lantz-Simmons at the June 13 luncheon ceremony in her honor during the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) at Eastern Mennonite University.
The executive director of the Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) in Kansas City, Missouri, is the fourth recipient of the annual recognition of a graduate of EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP). She first attended SPI in 2005 and earned a master’s degree in conflict transformation in 2009.
In her acceptance speech, she highlighted CCR’s programs. The organization offers neighborhoods and families group facilitation, conflict resolution and mediation training, and trauma and circle workshops; has assisted the city in implementing – and anticipates expanding – restorative justice practices in schools; offered restorative processes and trauma and conflict resolution trainings in prisons, reentry facilities, and courts; and provided various organizations with group facilitation, trainings, trauma awareness and mediation.
“CCR is an example of what it takes to do real peacebuilding and effect significant change, beyond the boundaries of mediation,” said CJP academic programs director Jayne Docherty in remarks about Lantz-Simmons. “It takes long-term vision and teamwork to actually make significant transformation in systems, and not just resolve conflicts. The vision that you have held is a big vision for a less violent and more just city, and that is what we love to see.”
In a video made by CCR staff for the occasion, founder Diane Kyser praised Lantz-Simmons as having “brought this agency to incredible places because of the vision that she has had and then dedicated [herself] to pursue.”
“We all know how wonderful Annette is, and we’re especially pleased that now the rest of the world has a chance to discover that, too,” she said.
CCR staff described Lantz-Simmons as “intuitive,” “imaginative,” “inspiring,” and “caring,” and called her a “non-anxious presence” with the “courage to gently nudge change.”
In later emails, CCR mediator and classroom facilitator Jackie Buycks said that Lantz-Simmons has empowered her to be creative in her restorative justice work in schools. Mediator Jaylon Verser said she has worked to understand him in order “to know how she can best assist me in my work.” And volunteer Barbara Axton said that her “listening skills, depth of training and compassionate heart” mean that Lantz-Simmons can “‘be with’ each of us as we follow our own minds and hearts and create our path of peace in the organization.”
‘Educated and knowledgeable staff’
CCR has strong ties to CJP, as CCR founder Kyser and three staff have completed graduate degrees.
“The commitment of undertaking a master’s degree requires a great deal of time,” Winship wrote. “Annette afforded me not only the flexibility in my work schedule, but also the support and encouragement to be able to accomplish that undertaking.” That included granting him a “work sabbatical” even though it meant losing one of CCR’s four full-time staff for five months, “a huge burden on the remaining staff,” he said.
Debbie Bayless, a mediator who works with neighborhoods and various court diversion programs, completed her degree in restorative justice in May 2018. She noted that Lantz-Simmons “challenges conventional methods with her peacebuilding lens. She empowers by leading by example, stepping out of her comfort zone to do what she truly believes.”
Additionally, former CCR education strategist (and Annette’s daughter) Mikhala Lantz-Simmons earned a master’s degree in conflict transformation in 2015, which continues to inform her work with Absolunet, an eCommerce and digital marketing agency based in Montreal, Canada.
The Peacebuilder of the Year Award recognizes “alumni who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to its mission of supporting conflict transformation, restorative justice, trauma healing, development, organizational leadership and peacebuilding efforts at all levels of society,” said CJP executive director Daryl Byler.
All of the 638 alumni who have earned master’s degrees or graduate certificates in conflict transformation or restorative justice from CJP are eligible for the award.