Deri Joy Ronis received a $12,500 grant from Rotary Interational to teach conflict resolution and group dynamics to university students in Belize for five months next year. Ronis is a peace psychologist who has done family and individual counseling and corporate mediation.
Deri Joy Ronis says she has never done things traditionally.
"My mother used to ask me when I was going to be normal," the Delray Beach resident remembered. With a first name that is actually an acronym of family names, she says she was bound to be a little different. But it was her middle name, Joy, that defined her path to peace psychology, and now it's her career that is taking her in new directions -- specifically to Galen University in San Ignacio, Belize, where she will teach from January to May next year.
Affectionately known as Dr. Deri, Ronis is a peace psychologist who specializes in peace studies and conflict resolution. She has helped bring joy to businesses, schools, and individuals in Palm Beach County for more than 20 years by mediating problems. She recently received the Rotary International Scholar Professor and Goodwill Ambassador Award. She will get a $12,500 grant and spend a semester teaching conflict resolution and group dynamics to university students in the developing country. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime," Ronis said. It's not the first time Ronis will try to make a difference overseas. After graduating from a New York high school in 1969, Ronis went to live and work in a kibbutz, an independent communal farm in Israel. While her Brooklyn friends were flinging mud at Woodstock, she was picking oranges near Qiryat Shemona. "I moved my way up to the kitchen, which I didn't like because I had to cut the heads off fish," said Ronis, who ended up as head of the kibbutz's volunteer quarters. She said that during her time in Israel she occasionally hid in bomb shelters, much like people in the region do today, she said. "When will people in the world stop killing each other," said Ronis, who said she believes that not everything can be mediated, even though her livelihood is mediation. "Anger is a gift that lets us know that something needs to be learned," Ronis said. It's a message she stresses in her Delray Beach private practice, where she provides individual and family counseling, as well as corporate mediation for many businesses, including the U.S. Postal Service. Ronis also works as a part-time counselor and teacher at Toussaint L'Ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice in Delray Beach. "Wherever you go, there is an opportunity to teach conflict resolution," said Ronis, whose extensive resume is full of seized opportunities.
Ronis holds several college degrees, including a bachelor's in bilingual educational studies from Empire State College in New York City and a doctorate in international peace studies and conflict management from Union Institute in Cincinnati. She's a published author and has been part of developing numerous help and healing programs in the county. "I love what I do, but I've always dreamed of teaching overseas as a professor," Ronis said. "And it's a gift to be able to teach these subjects during such a pivotal time in history. We are at a threshold. "But Ronis said she believes that the situation in the world is not too far gone, especially when there are organizations such as Rotary International "helping to establish pockets of peace all over the world. I think where there is life, there is hope," Ronis said. It's a sentiment she saw personified just before her mother died in 1999. "She told me, 'I think I've finally learned to accept you like I've learned to accept myself.'"