SRO reveals the ‘Comfort Zone’ at West Bertie Elementary school

Published 6:12 pm Friday, January 10, 2020

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By Amanda Bunch

Bertie County Schools

LEWISTON — After the Christmas Program at West Bertie Elementary School’s parent night, just before winter break, a vision turned reality that was almost a year in the making was unveiled for all to see.

Front row, from left, Moriah Outlaw, Tawanda Smallwood (Principal), Laila Smallwood, Qa’Shawna Belfield, and Nicholas Wiggins, are joined by, back row from left, SRO Sgt. Bonnie Powell, John Trent and Beverly Trent at the recent opening of the “Comfort Zone” at West Bertie Elementary School. Photo by Bertie County Schools

It was the brainchild of SRO (School Resource Officer) Sgt. Bonnie Powell, who used monies from her own pocket to create, along with a partnership with the Juvenile Council Prevention Committee of Bertie County. With some additional, generous financial assistance from Beverly Trent, Commissioner John Trent’s wife, who is an avid supporter of raising a better generation in Bertie County, and who believes in our children—The “Comfort Zone” room was created.

What is the “Comfort Zone?” This pilot program, which is an extension of Teen Court, is geared toward helping students in the elementary grades to engage in peer mediation, offer social and emotional support to one another, and champion their own student voices as they address bullying together and work toward conflict resolution among themselves and under Sgt. Powell’s guidance.

Powell has trained six chosen students, known as “Peer Mediators,” in using skills to help their fellow students to resolve conflicts—large and small. Through this program, students will have a voice and will be able to talk to one another, when (as the case is sometimes), they just don’t feel comfortable going to an adult. Students will also learn valuable coping skills for when times get rough and rocky, which will carry them through life.

It is believed that a student’s peers can have a powerful influence on the outcome of many situations and circumstances—bullying, attendance, self-esteem, academics and so much more.

Sgt. Bonnie Powell relaxes inside the “Comfort Zone” – a room designed to aid elementary school students in social and emotional support to one another, and champion their own student voices as they address bullying together and work toward conflict resolution. Photo by Bertie County Schools

When Mrs. Trent saw the room for the first time, she said, “It is beautiful! It is so calming! THIS is the beginning of raising a kinder generation, and I am so happy to be working with Sgt. Powell and seeing this program grow and be implemented in every school.”

Powell said, “Oh I’m not going to stop here! Mrs. Trent has helped me launch this project, and it’s not about the money or the cost—it’s the kids whom we are excited for!”

The “Comfort Zone” is a haven; it is a safe place. The conflict resolution oasis is not meant to be punitive, but therapeutic, as the students work to address non-violent offenses at school.