NASHVILLE, Tenn.- A Nashville organization graduated its first class of trained bilingual mediators who plan to help Nashville's diverse communities.
On Saturday, a dozen students completed 32 hours of specialized training at the Lipscomb University Institute for Conflict Management. The new mediators celebrated the end of the training at a reception at Lipscomb.
They will offer Spanish/English mediation at the Woodbine United Methodist Church through a program sponsored by the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center.
Organizers and participants in the bilingual mediation project called the effort a positive alternative to English-only or English-first legislation discussed widely across the state in recent months.
The nonprofit Nashville Conflict Resolution Center started as an outreach effort of the Nashville Bar Association.
Contributions from individuals and foundations such as the Tennessee Bar Foundation support the NCRC, which also provides mediation services in the Davidson County General Sessions.
"Having people who speak both English very well and Spanish very well will be a huge help," said ICM Executive Director Larry Bridgesmith.
The program is designed to help Nashville's Hispanic community.
"If you at least have experienced that culture to a degree, you'll be more sensitive to that," said NCRC mediator Leoncio Dominguez.
While Saturday's role play was about a leaky roof, program organizers hope the mediators will be called on to resolve serious disputes, fights, and legal battles before they become violent.
"Yes, it can save lives, definitely, definitely," Dominguez said, "lives, grief and many other things."
"The issue of immigration and all of the cross cultural diversity of our city has raised the levels of tension," Bridgesmith said.
As the training closed, Bridgesmith commended the students seeking to solve conflicts and bridge cultural gaps.
"That's incredible power for our community," he said. "So, for you to give yourselves to that, I am personally grateful for that."