Founder, Trainer, Facilitator, Grief Support Specialist, &
I am Jessie Kushner, and am the founder,
trainer, consultant, and a provider at Collective Voices. I have worked with teens, young adults, families, and professionals for almost 30 years through Outward Bound, the non-profit I
co-founded, FLYY, and now with Collective Voices. While at Outward Bound, I introduced and implemented restorative practices into the curriculum and was honored to work in numerous roles for both wilderness and urban centers. I have served as a national staff trainer and facilitator at the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding.
I have spent over thirty years as a crisis responder in situations as varied as: working with survivors of Hurricane Katrina; supporting the Indigenous communities at Standing Rock; developing and managing the national high-risk teen program at Outward Bound; co-founding a non-profit serving marginalized communities and individuals through wilderness programming, parent skills and support groups, and community-based aftercare (Forward Learning Youth and Young Adults); and in 2019, I founded Collective Voices.
In 2011, I co-founded the non-profit Forward Learning Youth & Young Adults in Madison, WI. FLYY’s wilderness expedition program provided youth and families that were marginalized and often not effectively served by existing community resources. In 2015, FLYY spearheaded “FLYY Tribal”, for Native American youth and families. FLYY’s wilderness expeditions offered high-risk and marginalized youth and families a way to discover and develop character and resiliency.
FLYY’s innovative approach - a lengthy wilderness expedition, parent skill development and support groups, and critical post-expedition aftercare. This combination resulted in long-term successes for young people and their families throughout Wisconsin.
From the summer of 2018 to the summer of 2019, I co-developed and co-directed a
community-based Peace Program held at a community center in Madison, WI. In many communities, people do not have a free, safe, local space to share, heal, discuss, resolve, or celebrate with one another. The Peace Program aimed to address lack of access to vital services that people deserve - services in which residents themselves can become lead facilitators and stakeholders.
Over the length of a year, the Peace Program mentored a group of youth by teaching them how to facilitate a variety of types of Peacemaking Circles, Nonviolent Communication, and de-escalation skills, while simultaneously engaging local adult leaders to help support the youth - the goal of the project was to create a change in community culture that moved away from firearms and antisocial behavior.
At the conclusion of the Peace Program, the community was able to use this free and accessible program to better address the prevalence and impact of violence and victimization on Madison’s Northside. The components of the Peace Program offered an opportunity to reconnect, repair, and break silence. A community-based program such as this can serve as a place for individuals and groups to come together to effectively resolve conflicts through two distinct services - Peacemaking Circles and Conflict & Repair dialogue.
In 2019, I founded Collective Voices. I provide services that heal, strengthen relationships, give voice, enhance equity, accountability, and respect, interrupt longstanding cycles of conflict, and repair harm. I am best known for my work in building rapport with diverse populations, and facilitating dialogue, conflicts, trainings, and Circles around difficult topics. I use a restorative framework to create spaces for both productive conflict and healing to occur. I believe that all people need the opportunity to tell their story, and be seen, heard, valued, and understood. I work alongside people and help them to develop the skills to uncover and express their feelings and needs.
I received a B.A. in Outdoor Education, mediator training from the UW-Wisconsin Continuing Studies, training as a Circle Keeper from many Relatives as well as the Minnesota Department of Education and Legal Rights Center, the Red Road Approach facilitator training from Generation Red Road, and Grief Support Specialist training from the UW-Wisconsin Continuing Studies. Additional training and experience comes from decades of first-hand experience. The hundreds of people I have met while on the road, the youth and adults I have worked with, as well as my colleagues, have been my best teachers. I am forever humbled and grateful for being able to walk with people on their journey.