Providence Day, South Meck students study the ‘RISE of Peace’

Finding ways to change the world proves to be an intimidating task for many high school students, but thanks to Charlotte-based nonprofit Mothering Across Continents, 18 local high school students are learning the value of peace not just around the world, but even right here at home – and they’re finding ways to make a difference.

The RISE program includes 18 students from area schools.

The RISE program includes 18 students from area schools.

Mothering Across Continents exists to develop and grow projects inside and outside the United States that focus on youth in education, nutrition, health, joy and peace, said Patricia Shafer, chief catalyst with Mothering Across Continents. The efforts mostly focus on education projects where conflict and community challenges tend to get in the way.

Shafer spent three months in Thailand and Cambodia as a Rotary Peace Fellow in 2012 where she focused on how to apply peace building principles to humanitarian projects around the world. As a follow-up to her time abroad, Shafer also was asked to co-design and co-develop a new youth peace education-training program called RISE of Peace, an idea originating out of Vermont by Rotarian Jeff Teitel. Students participating in the program will be named certified peace envoys by the end of the curriculum.

“I was able to develop a peace program that could be taken global for high school students,” Shafer said, adding the academic study of peace is “a relatively new phenomenon.”

“We’ve had philosophies of peace for 2,500 years, but the study of peace and how you actually develop peace and how to be a peace-builder is relatively new.”

Shafer first launched her 12-week pilot program with high school students in Vermont. The curriculum also was recently presented to university students in La Paz, Bolivia.

Most recently, the program was launched in Charlotte, bringing together both private and public school students for the cause. Eighteen students from Providence Day School’s Global Studies Diploma program, South Mecklenburg High School’s Interact Club and Independence High School’s Academy of International Studies all came together at Providence Day on Feb. 7 to participate in the first session. They will come together again on March 8 at Independence for Session II in their studies.

“Why not Charlotte?” Shafer said. “It’s a fast-growing city, and like any other city, has its own challenges in conflict and peace. What’s so amazing is that the program involves three different high schools, so even the act of bringing the three high schools together is a bridge building
exercise.”

But collaborating and working together wasn’t a problem for the students, said Shafer, along with Loren Fauchier, director of global education at Providence Day School. All of the 18 students are interested in peace and are associated with study programs and clubs at their own schools based on global issues and peace – that’s why the three schools were first chosen to participate.

“I personally was excited about this project because, not only do I really enjoy talking about peace, but it has an additional value because of the private-public cooperation,” Fauchier said. “The 18 students showed up at our school on Friday, and you wonder how long it would take them to get to know one another, but they immediately jumped into groups.”

Fauchier said he hopes the students are able to use the program and its curriculum to better understand peace as an actual concept – something attainable they feel confident in working toward. That’s what Shafer hopes to accomplish, too – by giving students the knowledge and tools in peace-building, students can feel empowered to start projects and create change abroad, nationally or even in their own communities. The program, which consists of three two-day workshops all together, as well as weekly conference calls and a culminating peace project for each student, is a big commitment for the 18 students, in addition to AP courses, athletics and other extra-curricular activities and sometimes grueling homework. But all of the students have the drive to succeed and better understand peace, hopefully one day finding the confidence to put their knowledge into action.

“From the feedback I’ve got so far, the first work session was fantastic. It’s a lot of work, but the fact they get to know other students and actually consider peace as a concept” is exciting, Fauchier added. “Our program (at Providence Day) aims to create global citizens, and that’s why this RISE of Peace program is so important. One of my goals is to develop these students to have the global citizen skills to really make a
difference.”

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