The SASA program, which began as a district-wide drug prevention and intervention initiative in Union City in 1986, focuses not just on substance abuse issues but also on conflict resolution.
"Conflict resolution is about formally training kids in assisting students with problems before they escalate," said SASA Program Director Thomas Kelly.
There are about 600 peer mediators in the district who are trained to work in the program. The mediators are trained through Peer Roots, a program based at Montclair State College.
"The idea is not to get the school administrators or parents involved," said Kelly. "It allows kids to work out their issues and hopefully resolve them."
According to Kelly, in the 1999-2000 school year, the peer mediators working through SASA performed 439 successful interventions, and the school suspension rate has also declined.
The SASA program held its fourth annual Peace Day on May 12 at the Bruce D. Walter Recreation Center on Fifth and West streets to recognize the efforts that these children are making in their schools.
"Peace Day is an offshoot of the work that we have been doing in the district," said Kelly.
Each of the district's 11 elementary schools and two high schools participated in the day by setting up a table with their own peaceful activity.
"The program is not just about mediating problems," said Kelly. "It is about character education. And each school has their own way of teaching that."
This is evident by the different shirts and activities each school had set up at their tables.
One school asked the children attending the program to write one thing that they can do that will help create a more peaceful environment.
Third grade student at Edison School Johanna Aroca and her sister Stephanie, a second grade student at Edison School, liked this table.
"I wrote that I would tell people not to fight and be nice to each other," said Johanna Aroca.
Stephanie Aroca said that another table also asked questions about creating peaceful environments.
"What will I do if someone called me a mean name that wasn't nice," was one of the questions that Stephanie Aroca answered.
However, not all of the tables set up at the event were about avoiding conflict. Others like the dunking tank provided by Columbus School were purely for enjoyment.
Stephany Garcia, a fifth grade peer mediator at Hudson School, made bracelets and gave temporary tattoos to the kids that visited her table.
"I made more than 150 bracelets today," said Garcia. "A lot of people came here."