Parent-child disputes, trespassing conflicts, curfew quarrels. They all get the attention of Sierra Butler, a soon-to-be Wright State University student who volunteers at the Dayton Mediation Center.
Currently a student at Sinclair Community College, Butler spends her Saturdays working at the mediation center, a city agency that provides free and low-cost conflict management services in cases that come through the municipal and juvenile courts as well as the police and sheriff’s departments.
Neighbors, families, parents, youth, community groups and co-workers use the services to address a wide range of issues.
Butler says that in working to resolve disputes, she tries not to take sides.
“My secret is to just listen,” said Butler. “What makes me feel best is when we reach an understanding.”
Butler will transfer to Wright State in the spring semester to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She says she is impressed with the support students receive at the university.
“That’s pretty much why I like Wright State,” she said. “It truly cares about the students.”
In elementary school, Butler was told that she had a learning disability, was placed in a special education classroom and found herself the victim of bullying.
“It really hurt me,” she recalled. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything.”
But in seventh grade, one of her teachers told Butler she did not have a learning disability. The teacher got her involved in oratorical competitions and mediating student disputes.
“This woman changed my life,” Butler said. “That just opened me up.”
During her senior year at Jefferson Township High School, U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice came to the school to speak and Butler insisted on meeting him. Rice invited her to job-shadow him and then introduced her to the Dayton Mediation Center.
Butler would go on to graduate in 2013 as valedictorian of her class. She decided to attend Sinclair Community College because she felt it was a good fit for her. She works there as a student ambassador, giving tours to prospective students and helping them register for classes.
“I found out I like that job so much because I help people,” she said.
A typical day for Butler involves rising at 6 a.m., arriving at Sinclair at 7 a.m. and then studying for three hours in the library. Then there are classes and more studying in the library. She typically works as a student ambassador from 4 to 7 p.m., goes to a friend’s house for more studying and returns home by 10 p.m. On Saturdays, she works at the Dayton Mediation Center from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
With her mediation background, Butler’s friends urged her to pursue political science as a major and become a lawyer. She tried it for awhile, but then decided to switch to psychology.
Butler wants a career as a counseling psychologist. After getting her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wright State, she hopes to go on and obtain her master’s and doctorate as well.
“I want to help people,” she said. “With a political science degree, you can’t really get to know the people. In counseling psychology, you know those people. You actually get to work with them.”