The Peacemaker Award
With the Interfaith Council of Franklin County, we honor each year area young people dedicated to peace and justice in their schools and communities.
History of the Peacemaker Awards
In 1999, following the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, the Interfaith Council and Traprock brought author and psychologist Ervin Straub to Greenfield to speak about helping youth who are confronted with a culture of violence. It was the suggestion of Father Stan Aksamit that these organizations needed to find ways to recognize young people for their contributions to well-being, non-violence and justice in our communities. The first Peacemaker Awards were given in the spring of 2000. They have continued to be given in recognition to young people of Franklin County since then, and this year we will celebrate the 20th annual Peacemaker Awards.
The young people and their families, along with the sponsors who nominated them, are honored in a celebratory program in May. Each of the nominees receives a certificate commending them for their efforts and a small monetary award. We have a chance to not only hear about them but also hear from them about their contributions and their hopes.
As an example of the young Peacemakers diverse work for peace and social justice, here we list the accomplishments of ten Franklin County teens in 2011.
- Peer Mediation
- RISE UP program
- Training Active Bystanders Program
- Gay/Straight Alliance
- Life Skills programs
- Anti-Bullying efforts
- Students Against Destructive Decisions
- Peacemakers Summit at Hampshire College
- Annual Youth Conference
and wider world projects such as:
The Invisible Children program which collected books for students in war-impacted countries in Africa.
In other years we have honored students for working with a horseback riding program for handicapped students and with a micro-finance program, for leading a protest against the violence in Darfur, for assisting indigenous people in Central America, for raising money for Rwanda, and for working with Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission.
Twelve area students were honored Thursday night at Greenfield Community College with Peacemaker Awards by the Interfaith Council of Franklin County and Traprock Center for Peace and Justice for the “extraordinary” work they are doing for social justice, equality and the eight “isms” and so much more.
“I can’t top you,” state Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, said. “You are amazing.”
Blais told students they’ve made an impact in everyone’s lives around them.
The students were nominated by teachers and other community members. Those who nominated the students spoke briefly about the students’ efforts and how they positively affected the community.
The students efforts included the work of the Waste Warriors, an effort led by Hugo Frost and four other Mahar Regional High School students that helped to reduce the amount of recyclable material in school garbage.
“One of the many things that’s so beautiful about it is they demonstrated what movement building looks like,” Deb Habib from Seeds of Solidarity, a nonprofit organization in Orange, said of the students. She noted how the students’ effort started with a successful idea that gained momentum.
At the the 17th annual Peacemaker Awards Thursday night, four students expressed the importance of listening to others — even the youth.
“There’s a strong idea that the ideas and thoughts and drives that young people have are not as useful and important,” award-winner Larkin Christie said. “It’s really important that we recognize the wisdom of people who have lived on this earth bring, but I don’t want that to undermine the opinions and thoughts of young people.”
“One thing we all need, is peace,” said Marcia Miller, co-chair of the Peacemaker Awards, speaking in front of about 200 people Thursday evening at Greenfield Community College during the 16th annual awards presentation.
The Peacemaker Awards recognize Franklin County students grades eight through 12 who have worked toward peace in their schools, churches and communities. Past recipients of the award include young people addressing issues of social injustice and global inequality, in specific areas such as racism, homophobia and women’s rights.
This year, more than a dozen area students were honored for their community contributions in the annual Peacemaker Awards. These awards are given to youths in eighth grade or higher, as well as teens who are homeschooled or have left school. Nominations come from school staff and community members.
By KATHLEEN McKIERNAN
Thursday, May 15, 2014
(Published in print: Friday, May 16, 2014)
GREENFIELD — When a group of Mohawk Trail Regional School students started the Anti-Bullying Youth Council, they felt compelled by their friends, siblings, and themselves.
‘We, the people, wanted to take a stand. We, the people, did,’ said Sarah Malone, 16, of Charlemont.
The student-led anti-bullying group was among 15 students from across Franklin County who were recognized as peacemakers this year whether it was for their work fighting bullying, helping the hungry or volunteering at the Special Olympics.
The Traprock Center for Peace and Justice along with the Interfaith Council of Franklin County held its 14th annual peacemaker awards on Thursday, where several community members gathered at Greenfield Community College to honor young people dedicated to peace and justice in their schools and communities.
‘This is the best night of the year,’ said Rep. Denise Andrews. ‘The reason why, is it gives me hope that we can have a world that works for everyone and it refreshes me personally. You are making a difference.’
During the height of the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado and incidents of violence in Franklin County, the Interfaith Council and Traprock Center partnered in 2000 to create awareness about the incidents of violence and honor young people fighting it.
Ten students are being recognized for their peacekeeping actions at the Mohawk Trail Regional School.
The members of the Anti-Bullying Youth Council (ABC) at Mohawk are being honored for their contributions to the school community. Members are Ashley Fox, Carlee Hallenbeck, Ada Jacobson-Carroll, Hanna Kelleher, Lindsey Kugler, Sarah Malone, Brigit Taylor and Valentina Wrisley.
The council members model inclusivity, supportive peer relationships and social awareness.
‘When we first made ABC, people asked us why? What inspired us? We said open your eyes, we have a problem in our schools,’ said Malone. ‘We were inspired by us, by our personal experience, by being onlookers, by our siblings, by your children, by sideways sneers passing in the hallways. It didn’t take much. It never does as long as you have people that care.”
The group has worked on several significant projects, including the screening and discussion of the film, ‘Bully’ at Pothole Pictures, a follow-up mix-it-up lunch discussion for the 350 high school students this year. They also assisted eighth graders with the transition to high school, organized training for students about being active bystanders and formed a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network student group.
Jordan Avery, a sophomore at Mohawk, was nominated by Becca King of Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield, for his work at the hunger relief organization. Avery volunteered at Stone Soup Cafe as part of his peer leadership class. Since November, Avery volunteered every Saturday, working 3.5 hour shifts and working on Friday nights as well.
While working at the cafe, King found him to be capable of independent and responsible leadership.
Avery has shown himself to be open to seeing and working with others with a compassionate heart, a discerning eye and a willingness to do what needs to be done to create a safe and comfortable environment for people, Trap Rock and the Interfaith Council noted.
Briel Gibson at Mohawk was nominated by Rev. Cara B. Hochhalter, pastor of Charlemont Federated Church and Susan Shauger, an attorney and church member for her faithful love with others at home, in school, in her community.
Gibson works at the church nursery and teaches Sunday school on a monthly basis.
Passionate about the environment, Gibson raises awareness about plastic pollution and coordinates an annual Earth Day trash pick up and a ‘plastic free’ dinner for the church and community. To raise money for a mission trip this summer to South Korea, she is baking and selling homemade bread. She also hopes to be part of a mission trip to an Indian reservation in South Dakota.
Nikolas Brandl, of Greenfield High School, was selected for his many activities at the school and his work on statewide Special Olympic events.
For the past two years, Brandl has served as student council president and worked on several projects from scouting for food, kettle ringing for the Salvation Army and replacing flags at local cemeteries.
Most recently, Brandl showed videos of the Special Olympics at a pep rally to encourage staff and students to realize the harmful effects of using the word ‘retarded,’ according to Trap Rock and the Interfaith Council.
‘The message is whenever you could make friends instead of enemies, choose to make friends,’ Brandl said.
Emily Mills of the Eighth Grade Academy at Greenfield High School, is recognized for her volunteer work in the community. She is a member of the junior firefighters in Colrain. She also volunteers at the Greenfield YMCA’s after-school program, assisting youth in their workout program and swimming. She also volunteers at the Church Community Meal. During the summer, she served as a counselor in training at Camp Apex, helping children with arts and crafts, archery and swimming.
Darnell Jones, a senior at Ralph C. Maher Regional School, is a member of the student council and regional student council and trains students and faculty in the active by stander program.
‘At some point in everyone’s life, you feel vulnerable. Being nice to people is the best way they don’t feel vulnerable,’ Jones said.
With his positive attitude, courage and kindness, Jones stands out and serves as a great role model for the community, Principal Ishmael Tabales said.
Susan Wallace of the Quabbin Mediation said Darnell is an articulate speaker, a genuinely good person with the ability to intervene from a place of understanding.
His guidance councilor, Caitlin McKenna, said Darnell is warm, welcoming and compassionate member of the school community.
Frontier Regional School seniors, Torsten Nelson and Hannah Woodring serve as co-captains of the Frontier Friends Team of Middle and High School students. Both students work toward acceptance and inclusion of all students. Often, the two are involved in events to support life skills students and respond to bullying events, working to transform those into teachable moments. In 2009, the two students began helping to run the new student orientation program at Frontier. They also helped to create the new honor code and zero tolerance bullying policy at the school, brainstorming ideas with peers, writing the policy and meeting with school officials to develop it.
In May 2013, 8 Franklin county teens were honored for leadership in anti-bullying and peer mediation programs, coordinating a program for varsity athletes to work with elementary school children, and organizing a blanket drive for people in the Dominican Republic. The annual Peacemaker Award is a joint program of Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and the Interfaith Council of Franklin County.
On May 10, 12th annual Peacemaker Award for Franklin County high school students, co-sponsored by Traprock and the Franklin County Interfaith Council, honored 9 students from Franklin County High Schools for their outstanding activism and commitment on behalf social justice, peace and respect for fellow students: Thalia Baltzer, Diane Blanker, Courtney Eugin, Jessica Gilmore, Valenka Kosick (could not attend), Paul Phillips, Thomas Sanders, Tyler York-Welcome, and Kellie Zalenski.