International Nonviolence Summer Institute attendees share ties to Sandy Hook, Santa Fe school shootings

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WHAT: Twenty nine attendees at the 19th annual International Nonviolence Summer Institute are receiving advanced leadership training in Kingian nonviolence with civil rights leader Bernard LaFayette, Jr. Three attendees have strong connections to school shootings in Sandy Hook and Santa Fe and plan to apply their new skills in their local communities.

WHO: Wendy Bowen, Wakefield, R.I., a teacher in the Sandy Hook school district who retired after the 2012 tragedy to “turn her pain into propane” and bring nonviolence and peace tactics to schools around the country. Today, she works as a trainer and mentor for Nonviolent Schools Rhode Island, and is an activist for the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Mona Benton, Galveston, Texas, a mental health counselor, served on the Galveston County Critical Incident Stress Management team following the Santa Fe High School shooting in May. Benton used tactics she learned at last year’s Summer Institute to co-facilitate teaching a nonviolence and peace curriculum to incarcerated veterans.

Theresa Haak, Texas City, Texas, a middle school teacher in the Santa Fe school district, said increased gun violence against schoolchildren is of great concern, and she hopes the training will help her become a more effective community leader. This is her second year at the Summer Institute, an experience that she said “enlightened her beyond her wildest dreams.”

Bernard LaFayette, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., a civil rights activist for the last 50 years. He is a co-founder and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, veteran of sit-ins, a Freedom Rider, and associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. LaFayette was a founder of the URI Center for Nonviolence and Peace studies, and director for nine years.

WHEN: Thursday, June 14, at 10 a.m.

WHERE: Quinn Hall room 103, 55 Lower College Road, Kingston, 02881

HOW: Bowen, Benton, Haak and LaFayette will be available for interviews. The media are also welcome to cover portions of the training session.

FOR INFORMATION: Carol McCarthy, 401-874-4147, advanced inquiries; or Emma Gauthier, 508-648-8180, day-of event assistance.