Nicole Phillips took part in the June 2013 Practicum on Experiential Peacebuilding in Costa Rica. At the time, she was finishing almost three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic, partnering with a Haitian-Dominican community to create more opportunities for youth. Prior to the Peace Corps, she earned her B.A. in Elementary Education from Bridgewater College and worked as an Outward Bound instructor.
Nicole is now the Manager of Recruitment and Placement for Higher Achievement Baltimore, where she continues to focus on helping youth from underserved communities. She also continues to be involved with the Outward Bound community, including a recent initiative connecting Higher Achievement with Outward Bound Baltimore / Chesapeake Bay and the Baltimore Police Department.
How did you decide to work with youth from underserved communities?
My interest in the youth/education field originally stemmed from the impactful experiences I had as a student. There are three teachers that had a true passion for the well-being and whole person development of their students that I remember well from my education. Once I began to pursue the education field in undergraduate school, the disparity in learning opportunities became more evident. Recognizing the disproportionate opportunities and quality of resources/instruction between different communities and knowing that this can change inspired me to pursue a career in making that change.
Where do you see the greatest opportunities for peacebuilding in Baltimore?
Often times, unfortunately, something drastic has to happen to create true change. The recent events referred to as “riots” by the media in Baltimore City created a number of community engagement activities, sites of beautiful collaboration and opened the door to some seriously needed critical thinking around current policies and funding allocations for our nation, state, and city. These events reminded us that we as a community have a common goal – peace and equality. I believe that successful work towards this common goal will be found in community-wide efforts and collaboration between organizations like the initiative with Outward Bound Chesapeake Bay and the Baltimore City Police department that focus on a relationship and shared-learning approach to community development.
How has your experience with the Practicum on Experiential Peacebuilding influenced your work and life?
The practicum opened my cultural lenses and perspectives as a human. It also introduced me to the University for Peace, the field of peace education and took my experiential education background to a new level. My future goals are to be a professor of peace education and earn a doctorate from UPEACE. I discovered this goal during my Practicum course.
Can you describe a moment of peacebuilding success in your life?
I often feel like I don’t get to see the successes when working with youth, although it may just be our definition of success. I can think of many times when two youth I worked with overcame an issue and were friends afterwards, or when my experience and relationship with a new person gave us both new, more open-minded perspectives on the other’s culture. I believe little peacebuilding successes happen daily and are most important.
What does peace mean to you?
Peace means a number of things to me. Peace is genuine acceptance of others and the word around us. It is also the ability and desire to work through conflicts toward a better solution for all involved.