September 29, 2021 – Bank of the West, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, announced an expanded partnership with the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) to bring its Domestic Harmonizer Program (DHP) to more middle school students in Southern California and across the United States through a new Virtual Center. Bank of the West team members will also have the opportunity to support WPDI through volunteering.

The DHP is an innovative conflict-resolution education program for middle schools in the United States. Grounded in peace education and restorative justice, its curriculum is designed to create more peaceful learning environments. The program is currently in place at three Los Angeles area schools and will soon be available to schools nationwide through a new Virtual Center, which will feature the DHP’s curriculum, animation videos, and educational game.

“Teaching peace and conflict resolution in schools is one of the most efficient and empowering ways to prepare our children and youth for their responsibilities as citizens for today and tomorrow,” said Forest Whitaker, artist and WPDI Founder and CEO. “Our schools need more support nowadays than ever before in helping students feel safe, connected, and energized. This program is critical in helping students achieve all of these goals and providing them with lifelong skills. I want to thank Bank of The West for joining me in this endeavor, which will help to make the world a more peaceful place”.

Recently, an independent evaluation of the DHP reported the program provided helpful tools for educators to support their students’ critical needs during the COVID crisis, when many students struggled to transition to virtual learning. As one student put it, “We got to understand the different emotions we go through when being in a conflict, when we show empathy, etc. I got to learn that how we act can have a big impact on the situation we are in and can have an effect on the solution.”

“Banking can be a force for good. Through our support of WPDI’s Domestic Harmonizer Program, Bank of the West is helping young people succeed,” said Nandita Bakhshi, CEO and President of Bank of the West. “We have the ability to partner with organizations locally and scale these relationships globally through our parent company, BNP Paribas. By addressing pressing social issues and fostering youth inclusion, we can make progress towards building a more sustainable world.”

Today’s social and environmental challenges require financial organizations take a pivotal role in civic responsibility and contribute even more actively to sustainable growth. As a banking leader in sustainable finance, Bank of the West is taking action to enact positive change on a global scale, including supporting the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals to transform our world by 2030. A key part of this initiative is solving public health problems, like youth violence, to create sustainable cities and communities. By helping students to better manage and prevent conflicts before they escalate to violence, Bank of the West is working to fulfill this pledge and facilitate improved, more peaceful societies.

This two year partnership expansion is the result of a longstanding relationship between Bank of the West, BNP Paribas and WPDI. In 2018, the Bank of the West Charitable Foundation pledged a three-year commitment to support the DHP in the Los Angeles Area, while BNP Paribas concurrently announced a five-year commitment to fund the expansion of the organization’s Youth Peacemakers Network to Cape Town in South Africa.

Since the inception of the program in 2016, WPDI has reached 8,790 students, 158 peer mediators, 247 teachers, and 14 counselors through a combination of in-person and virtual trainings since the onset of the pandemic.

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