We had the good fortune of connecting with Justine Andreu Darling and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justine, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
I am a restorative justice practitioner, trainer, lecturer, consultant, and researcher. I work with k-12 schools, institutions of higher education, the criminal justice system, businesses, and community groups to build strong relationships within their communities and address harms in a way that reintegrates community members and strengthens relationships. Restorative Justice applies to all areas of life. It can help students reach their highest academic potential in school, reintegrate those coming out of prison, create high performing work teams, form stronger bonds between parents and children, and create healing spaces for those impacted by harm in any context. My goal is to offer healing, generative spaces for groups who want to build community or who are working through conflict and need support to create a peaceful, supportive, and productive environment. In the deeply polarized world we live in today, focusing on relationships with ourselves and others and cultivating empathy, compassion, and taking responsibility for our lives are ingredients needed to start healing the deep societal and personal wounds we have all experienced. Over the past year, I have been working on a new project, supporting the development of a Restorative Certificate Program at the University of San Diego’s Center for Restorative Justice. There is a growing need for skilled restorative practitioners throughout our society and our goal is to offer an accessible program that provides a comprehensive introduction to restorative justice facilitation and leadership through online coursework, a skill-building intensive workshop, and a practicum experience supported by an expert group of restorative coaches. I am passionate about this effort because I see this certificate program as a safe haven and inspirational training ground for leaders and influencers across all areas of society to come together to connect, learn, and gain more energy to continue building lasting peace in the world.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have always been drawn to peace and justice related issues in the world. After I graduated from college in 2008, I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and moved to Newark, New Jersey to work at a youth homeless shelter. My role was as a GED teacher and legal advocate for youth that were suffering an immense amount of trauma. In short, I witnessed the school to prison pipeline first-hand. After my service post was complete, I joined a master sdegree program at the University of San Diego’s School of Peace Studies, to make sense of my year of service. I felt lost, broken-hearted, and hopeless when I entered the MA program, but it offered me healing, support, and clarity in my life’s purpose. Two weeks into the program, I was introduced to restorative justice practices (RJP) by a colleague and mentor of mine, Sean Horrigan, and I spent the next 18 months cultivating a deeper understanding and passion for balancing compassion with responsibility. This launched me into the career of my wildest dreams. During the MA program, I traveled to Guatemala, Haiti, New Zealand, and Rwanda to present at conferences and learn from local restorative justice practices. I also attended every restorative training I could find. My Graduate Assistantship turned into my first job working as a Residential Life Community Director and the Restorative Justice Coordinator for USD. I co-founded USD’s restorative justice program, facilitated hundreds of community building circles and conferences to address harm, and trained staff, faculty, and student leaders across the campus. I then transitioned to the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC), where I was the Director of Restorative Justice Practices until 2019. I developed, expanded, and oversaw restorative training and programming in K-12 schools, higher education, criminal justice, and community programs. I also graduated from my PhD program in 2019, where I focused on how to create socially just restorative trainings in education. Since completing my PhD, I have focused on teaching in university settings and consulting for organizations that reach out for support. This restorative journey has not been smooth because I always find myself creating new positions and paths that never existed before. It is hard to find a job titled: Peacemaker. I thrive on working with people and creating something from nothing. That process is always very challenging and time-consuming but I am passionate about what I do, which makes it possible to keep going. When I was young, I did not know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I did not think I had any specific talents and I was not very good in school. It was nerve-wracking not being able to see a meaningful life path for myself but my mom always told me to explore, volunteer, and try to find something that I really love doing. So, all I could do was put one foot in front of the other. I could at least see the path under my feet and maybe enough to see the next step. The anchor that seemed to guide me most was my desire to help others and make the world a more beautiful, inspiring, peaceful, and loving place. I try to always act from a place of abundance, believing that the more I give, the more I will receive. In abundant success, there is no place for scarcity and competition, only connection, relationships, and trust can be sustained and thrive over time. I do not teach people ways of being or take people through experiences that I am not actively pursuing myself. Living an authentic life is challenging because it takes awareness and constant energy, but I cannot just believe in and be inspired by the restorative work I do, I have to live it in order to make a deeper impact on myself, others, and the systems and cultures around me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love being outdoors and San Diego is the perfect place for adventures! I would check out some of SD’s most beautiful hiking/walking trails like Torrey Pines reserve overlooking the ocean, Cabrillo National Monument on the cliffs of Point Loma, the tide pools in Encinitas, potato chip rock on the Mt.Woodson Trail, and Mt. Laguna (which in the winter has snow, too). I am also a huge foodie and SD is known for its fresh fish so I would definitely visit Fish 101 in Encinitas, The Fish Market near downtown, and El Pescador Fish Market in La Jolla (there are so many more too). I also am a crafty person who loves buying local and in non COVID times every day of the week there are outdoor farmers markets (I particularly love Little Italy and Ocean Beach Farmers markets) and craft fairs (I particularly love Makers Market Downtown).
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give a shout out to Dr. Gerald Monk, who I cold called in 2010 when I was just starting my masters in Peace and Justice and first learning about restorative justice. Gerald did not know me but he welcomed me with open arms into his restorative efforts in City Heights, SD and has been my restorative mentor and confidant ever since. He connected me to the RJ efforts in Northern Ireland, where I got to live and learn about RJ for 4 months and he later encouraged me to apply to a Ph.D. program in education and chaired my dissertation in restorative justice. Gerald’s encouragement, guidance, and generosity with his time and energy has made much of my educational journey and career, possible.