23-year-old Orange resident named co-executive director of Quabbin Mediation

Lilly Fellows has been named one of two co-executive directors of Quabbin Mediation. Fellows says the skills she learned when she participated in Quabbin Mediation’s Training Active Bystanders program in high school helped her greatly as a field hockey team captain at Smith College.

Lilly Fellows has been named one of two co-executive directors of Quabbin Mediation. Fellows says the skills she learned when she participated in Quabbin Mediation’s Training Active Bystanders program in high school helped her greatly as a field hockey team captain at Smith College. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO


For the Recorder

Published: 07-09-2024 5:00 PM

ORANGE — Lilly Fellows’ first introduction to the Training Active Bystanders program came when she was a student at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School, volunteering as a trainer and peer mediator throughout her junior and senior years.

While she admitted that as a high schooler she saw the program as a great way to get out of class and spend time with her friends, as time passed, she came to realize the skills she learned in peer mediation and her ability to communicate with others helped her greatly as a leader and an athlete in college.

“It really helped me on a team being able to mediate conflicts and have hard conversations,” Fellows said, referencing her time as a field hockey team captain at Smith College in Northampton.

Now, having graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in exercise and sports studies, Fellows will be relying on those skills as co-executive director of Quabbin Mediation, the nonprofit that started the Training Active Bystanders program in 2006. At 23 years old, Fellows is believed to be one of the youngest executive directors of a nonprofit in North America.

Fellows’ appointment comes as Quabbin Mediation’s former executive director and founder Sharon Tracy, as well as Training Director Susan Wallace, are stepping down. A retirement party in their honor will be held at 13 South Main St. in Orange on Tuesday, July 9, from 1 to 4 p.m. Remarks will be made at 2 p.m. by state Sen. Jo Comerford, Massachusetts Director of Rural Affairs Anne Gobi, retired Senate President Stan Rosenberg and others.

While the Orange resident said she is nervous about having such big shoes to fill, Fellows, who received the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Young Community Leader Award in 2022, also feels ready to take on the task alongside her new co-executive director, Lexington resident Stephanie Hsu. They have big plans for the future of the Training Active Bystanders program to build off their predecessors’ legacy, which includes expanding the program to fit the needs of as many communities as possible with a curriculum that is offered in multiple languages, including French, Spanish and Mandarin.

Established in 1995, Quabbin Mediation is a nonprofit known for its work in conflict resolution. It started Training Active Bystanders, recognizing the need for mediation for small towns in the North Quabbin region. Since then, Training Active Bystanders has gone on to help communities around the world from eastern Massachusetts, the United Kingdom, Canada, Alaska and Zambia. Additionally, in 2007, Quabbin Mediation launched Veterans Mediation, which has trained more than 1,000 veterans statewide.

People often find themselves in situations where they can help others but choose not to, instead remaining passive in harmful situations because they don’t want to get hurt themselves or simply don’t know how to act. Standing up for what’s right gets easier when an individual has the skills to analyze situations, evaluate consequences, and take action to prevent harm or disruption. This is what it means to be an active bystander, Fellows explained.

“It’s just a really important thing, not only for your personal self and the safety of you and those around you, but also for the values of your community and really appreciating positive actions in your community,” Fellows said when asked about the organization’s mission. “Standing against negative actions can really change an entire city.”

The program’s training sessions of either two and a half hours or six hours feature group activities dedicated to brainstorming ideas for mediation and conflict resolution within a community. The curriculum covers how to identify individuals who are in a harmful situation, understanding what leads to the inaction of bystanders and how to prevent inaction in the future.

“Mediation is kind of a solution to a problem, but Training Active Bystanders is a preventative measure where you’re able to learn skills to regulate yourselves without it getting to a point of needing mediation,” Fellows said.

From schools and youth camps to businesses and prisons, the ideas for conflict resolution and mediation vary from place to place. Training Active Bystanders recognizes this, implementing a Training for Trainers model where peers teach members within their own community.

“What makes it special is that people are running the trainings in their own communities so it’s not people from different communities coming in and telling you what’s right for you,” she said. “It’s people coming from your own community running trainings and talking about things that really matter to the community.”

As she steps into a co-executive director role, Fellows said she is focused on continuing her work with youth, with the understanding of what the program did for her and what she knows it can do for the next generation. This fall, she will also be pursuing a dual master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and athletic counseling at Springfield College.

Though she may have a lot on her plate, Fellows isn’t deterred, given her life motto of saying yes to any opportunity that comes her way. She credits that mindset for getting her where she is today.

More than anything, though, Fellows hopes people take away the same lessons from the Training Active Bystanders program as she did.

“I just think the most important thing that Training Active Bystanders teaches is to just always keep an open mind,” she explained. “Do what you feel is right, stand up for what you believe in, and — whether or not you do that through TAB or Quabbin Mediation — finding a way to grow your conflict resolution skills to learn how to be an active bystander. The more you practice, the easier it is to stand up for what’s right.”