Safeguarding the Earth for the Future. Member Spotlight: Yasmeen Kennedy
Yasmeen Kennedy lives in Colorado, where she works as a mediator in a variety of capacities. She is passionate about police relations, children, and climate change, and she works on all three issues in her community, as well as with MBBI. She hopes that mediation can help alleviate some of the tension that has built up between people throughout the pandemic.
From Law to Mediation
Yasmeen knew from a young age that she was very interested in the law, and decided early on that she wanted to become a lawyer. She began working in a law office in 2001, where she worked at first as a file clerk. Eventually, she became a paralegal, which she loved. At this time, she was going to night school to earn her Bachelor’s degree. She would work during the day, go to school in the evenings, and would then return to work after her classes. “It would be one in the morning and I’m sending emails out and all of the first-year associates are responding to me, and I thought, ‘oh my gosh, they’re still here too!’ Because my life was kind of insane but I figured all the work that I was doing was so that one day I would be a lawyer and my life would be a lot less hectic. And then seeing all of the new attorneys and how crazy their lives were, I decided I didn’t think I wanted to be a lawyer because I didn’t want my life to be that stressful and crazy.”
After deciding against going to law school, despite the encouragement of her colleagues and her stellar LSAT scores, she settled on mediation as a next step. She came to this decision through some of her case work as a paralegal, a role that she says allowed her to form an emotional connection with the cases that lawyers were not permitted to have. Her firm handled a lot of cases involving children, in which she says the concern became more about the fight than about the children. Cases like these pushed Yasmeen to the realization that, though she loved law, she wanted to work in a more peaceful and less adversarial space.
Yasmeen had had some mediation experience within her law firm, where her talents for peacebuilding were recognized, and she was often requested as a mediator for cases. She began the Harvard mediation program, where she fell in love with mediation, and knew it was the right fit for her. After this, she took Cornell’s mediation training to expand her knowledge about employment mediation. Currently, she is taking a Part 146 training for the state of New York, after which she says she will take a break from classes. Mediation, she has come to know, allows Yasmeen to fuse her multiple interests, including law. “There are so many things I’m passionate about with respect to the law, and I feel that mediation allows me to feel and express that passion without fighting.”
Yasmeen has been a member of MBBI for about a year, and has accomplished a lot in this time. She is part of the Climate Change Project, and will be travelling to Scotland shortly for COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Climate change is a very important issue to Yasmeen, who lives in Colorado, as she has seen first-hand the effects that climate change can have on air quality. The now pressing issue of Colorado air quality seems like a foreign issue, she says, one that is completely unexpected in a place like Denver. Furthermore, she wants to help safeguard the earth for the future, explaining that “it makes me really sad to imagine that that would be the future for my children and grandchildren.” In addition to her work on climate change, Yasmeen is part of the Police Community Relations Working Group, which fits in to her work on the review board for the Aurora Police Department. In this role, she reviews complaints about police officers, but has noticed a lack of allowance for community involvement, which she would like to correct. She wants to find a way to bring her community together over contentious issues such as police brutality and reform, and hopes that MBBI will help with her mission to do so. Finally, Yasmeen is also passionate about children, which stems from her work in juvenile law as a paralegal where she saw the ways that mistakes can cost a child their entire future. She wants to work with the local court system to implement restorative justice or teen court programs so that children and teens can make mistakes and learn from them, rather than being on the “prison path.”
Self-Care and the Current Climate
Yasmeen explains that the most difficult part of mediation is remembering the self-care aspect of it. Mediators take on the emotions of others, who are often going through the most difficult and stressful time of their lives. Therefore, it is important for mediators to find ways to release negative energy that can come out of mediation in order to continue to help people unpack their feelings and facilitate resolutions. On the other hand, Yasmeen finds the non-adversarial nature of mediation to be the most rewarding part. She loves the fact that mediators should see both sides of a conflict, whereas law is extremely one-sided. She prefers “being able to acknowledge both sides and help them see, sometimes see the good in the other person, and to help them work through that.” Mediation has become more difficult, though, since the pandemic began. Yasmeen has noticed that people are very angry, and have lost some of their propensity for communication and respect. She has noticed a massive increase in requests for mediation recently, which she claims is a sign of the state of the world right now, which one could call an era of polarization. Along with this, though, she has noticed a proliferation of mediation programs in various cities, which she believes to be the solution to any animosity. This rise in mediators will hopefully restore some of the humanity in people, and will help them solve their issues in a constructive way.
Article by Tess Hargarten, MBBI Writer