BE THE CHANGE: Nate Kesti cuts crime through human connectionsAlthough the job title “restorative practice program coordinator” may sound daunting to some, Nathan Kesti from Men as Peacemakers can’t imagine doing anything different.
By: Sarah Packingham, Budgeteer News
Although the job title “restorative practice program coordinator” may sound daunting to some, Nathan Kesti from Men as Peacemakers can’t imagine doing anything different.
Prior to working at Men as Peacemakers, Kesti worked in other positions around Duluth looking to make a difference. He worked with the Boyz II Dadz program, the Safe Haven shelter for battered women and also with the Parks and Recreation department.
Kesti said he is happy to work with a group of men and women who are equally dedicated to bettering the community.
Restorative justice is an alternative measure of dealing with crime and conflict, Kesti explained.
“It is a philosophy that recognizes the importance and power of human and relationships,” he said. “Crime and any other offenses or disruptive behaviors are about causing harm to people; harm that affects relationships directly and then ripples out, affecting many more. Because the emphasis is on building, strengthening and repairing relationships, on the interconnectedness of community and on the core values people share with one another, this restorative paradigm reaches beyond crime and the criminal justice system.”
Kesti said that Men as Peacemakers has become a hub of restorative practice in the community.
The group created the shoplifting and theft offender prevention program (STOPP) and restorative initiative supporting kids (RISK) to help those who need the programs.
STOPP was a collaborative effort with Arrowhead Regional Corrections and its juvenile probation program.
“Men as Peacemakers facilitates a monthly circle for juveniles who have been convicted of shoplifting and other misdemeanor theft crimes,” Kesti said. “Volunteers from the business community speak to the students about the
effects of theft on their businesses and on the community at large. One or two non-business community volunteers attend to represent and speak for the community regarding the impact of theft and shoplifting. Participants discuss their individual offenses and explore the ripple effect of their actions. From this discussion, these young offenders identify the harm they have done, to whom they need to make amends and how they will do so.”
The RISK series works with two to four medium-risk juvenile offenders from Arrowhead Regional Correction’s juvenile probation department. Most of those involved are ordered to do so by the courts, and they attend the series with a parent or other support person, Kesti said.
With the RISK series, victims can also meet with Men as Peacemakers and may even meet face-to-face with the juvenile who harmed them — if they choose.
The series lasts anywhere between eight and 10 weeks.
“[We are] helping to restore the wrongs that have been done by providing a chance for youth to make amends for the bad choices they have made,” Kesti said.
This is accomplished when they understand the impact they have on the community.
Kesti said he finds working in this type of job to be very rewarding, and he knows that the services he provides the youth are paying off in the long run.
“By providing the area youth a chance to know and understand the impact crime has on the community, as well as the role they can provide in bettering the community,” he said, “[they utilize] the opportunity and skills they have learned to no longer continue down the same path.
“Men as Peacemakers is currently at a 98 percent success rate regarding recidivism.”
Starting in October, Men as Peacemakers will partner with the Duluth Police Department in order to start a new diversion program.
With a name like Men as Peacemakers, it’s easy for one to think that this organization is for men only, but that is not true.
“[The organization] started in 1996 as an opportunity for men to get off the sidelines and help prevent violence,” Kesti said. “Men as Peacemakers’ mission statement is ‘To foster and develop peacemakers through modeling, mentoring, storytelling and dialogue.’
“The best way for us to do that is to have as many people from the community at the table as possible.”
Those community members are oftentimes women.
Kesti encourages anyone who is interested in being a volunteer for the restorative program at Men as Peacemakers, or any of its other programs, to check out www.menaspeacemakers.org for more information.
Nominate the next ‘Be the Change’ honoree
Mahatma Gandhi was known for saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
He was known for helping India gain its independence and also for inspiring movements seeking civil rights and freedom across the world.
Gandhi had a vision of a better place and there are people in the Duluth community who have ideals similar to his.
In this series, the Budgeteer will profile people who are passionate about making the world a better place. It doesn’t matter if it’s how they do their jobs or how they raise their kids — we just want to know about people you know who are making a difference.
If there is anyone you know who impacts Duluth or the surrounding communities, e-mail budgeteer@
duluthbudgeteer.com with “Be the Change” in the subject field to nominate them to be featured in this series.
With your nomination, please include a brief description of what you feel they are doing to impact the Northland.
Frequent Budgeteer contributor Sarah Packingham can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.