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Stephen P. Robinson Collaboration Grant Report: Providence Day School, Charlotte, NC

Wednesday, April 4, 2018  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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NewGen Peacebuilders: Collaborating on a Leadership Program that Equips High School Students to Turn Empathy into Action

By Dr. Loren Fauchier, Director of Global Education, Providence Day School, and Patricia Shafer, Chief Catalyst and Executive Director, NewGen Peacebuilders

Nonprofit and for-profit leaders often point to the potential of youth and young adults as tomorrow’s global citizen leaders. Yet peace, the most cross-cutting of all global topics, is essentially absent from formal and informal education frameworks. When peace education is available, it is typically about peace, not for peace.

The United Nations acknowledged as much when the United Nations replaced the Millennium Development Goals with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), included SDG #16 – Peace and Justice, and introduced a resolution that emphasizes the importance of youth as agents of change in the promotion of peace.

Similarly, Dr. Ian Harris, professor at the University of Wisconsin, and Dr. Johan Galtung, founder of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, note, respectively, that informed actions implemented by citizens at the community level and an understanding of the role of “positive peace” (proactive pursuit of well-being for all) are the often overlooked but essential elements in peacebuilding. 

Five-year Relationship for Peace
In this context, Providence Day School (PDS) and nonprofit NewGen Peacebuilders (NGP) have collaborated for five years on delivery of a comprehensive public/private initiative to provide a peace education, training, and mentoring program to high school students. The program emphasizes the role, value, and impact of young people (ages 14-24) in achieving a peaceful world. The collaboration is led by Dr. Loren Fauchier, Director of Global Studies at PDS, an independent college preparatory school grades TK through 12 that encourages students to think like a global citizen. NGP is a global youth leadership development and peace education program co-founded and led by Patricia Shafer, a former executive manager and consultant in change management and leadership development who is also a Rotary Peace Fellow. PDS has served as host site since the NGP program launched in Charlotte, NC, in Spring 2013 with 18 students from three high schools, including PDS. A five-minute video provides an overview of the program and PDS-NGP working relationship.

SAIS Collaboration Grant Goals
The NGP program has grown each year, and with support from a 2017 SAIS Collaboration Grant, the initiative had these three goals:

  • Participation from a broad and diverse group of public/private/independent/charter high schools across metro Charlotte;
  • Delivery of a culminating public presentation on Global Youth Service Day called YOUnited, with an interactive student-presented peace project exhibit;
  • First-time availability of written and video case studies through an NGP online platform (NGPOP) that encourages other schools to initiate public/private school peace education collaborations.

PDS and NGP envision their experience with peace education, training and mentoring serving as a replicable model that other schools, particularly in SAIS, might leverage to build social capital in urban/suburban communities.

Impact in 2017
Overall, it was an exciting year for the PDS and NGP with support from the 2017 SAIS Collaboration Grant. Twelve schools and nearly 100 students participated in the spring semester 2018 cohort of NewGen Peacebuilders in metro Charlotte, with final projects focusing on a wide range of issues and opportunities, including the role of active listening training in helping communities overcome an argumentative culture political polarization. More than 300 parents, family members, education officials and civic leaders attended the YOUnited Celebration, with Charlotte’s mayor writing a congratulatory citation for the NGP program and celebratory event. Five written and video case studies of student team action peace projects were produced. These case studies and videos, can all be accessed upon request by contacting info@newgenpeacebuilders. Three that range from approximately 5 to 7 minutes in length are included here because students who co-led these projects received unique awards, scholarships, and recognition.

  • #RiceforLife features a peace project through which students at East Mecklenburg High School analyzed their annual hunger drive and changed its intent and format to be more sensitive and responsive to the cultural diverse makeup of populations accessing local food pantries. Project co-leader Sarah Holley has publicly stated that NGP influenced her to write her senior thesis on the relationship between hunger and structural violence and helped her receive a full scholarship to major in Global Human Rights at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  • WalkforWisdom profiles the peace project of Myers Park High School students who created a fundraising walk to bring educational materials to South Sudan, the world’s newest country born from five decades of civil war. Project co-leader Milan Novakovic received a Disney Friends of Change award, and the Walk for Wisdom has expanded from Myers Park to include 40 schools in 12 states and a partnership with participate.com, a technology company serving teachers.
  • Teens Against Trafficking was completed by students at Lake Norman Charter, and team participant Tanvee Wakankar received an $8,000 scholarship from the Assistance League of Charlotte in recognition for her unique service accomplishments.
Gaining Interest and Momentum

The focus in 2017 was on use of the SAIS Collaboration Grant to solidify key components of the program: 1) delivering NGP to a large and diverse cohort of public/private/independent/charter high schools and students; 2) piloting the YOUnited Celebration; and 3) creating written and video case studies that illustrate the capacity of young people to be catalysts for peace and agents of positive change. We imagined that with these elements in place, it would be possible in 2018 that other schools in other cities, including especially those with SAIS schools, would become interested in bringing NGP to their areas.

The interest in and momentum of the program has surpassed our original goals. In the past year, cohorts of NewGen Peacebuilders have expanded to other urban/suburban communities in North Carolina and been introduced across the state of Virginia. In each case, an independent school initiated the expansion and reached out to local education officials and heads of large public schools to create a working and funding collaboration similar to the model used in Charlotte. Communities in Northern California, as well as Bolivia, Argentina, and South Sudan are also finding ways to adapt the NGP work based on the 2017 expanded model in Charlotte.

Additionally, the framework used by PDS and NGP in Charlotte has been used by and made it easy for schools to promote participation, deliver a cohort, host a YOUnited Celebration, and select final team projects that can be featured in written and video case studies. In some cases, school representatives have also begun asking interesting questions such as, “Are there ways that I can also begin to adapt the NGP content and format – for instance, linking it to an annual Model UN program that brings together schools in my area?”

Lessons Learned for the Future
As one IB student voiced in a past NGP cohort, “This is the only place I’ve ever learned about peace. I mean, in school, we learn about violence and maybe how not to repeat the violence, but we never learn how to repeat the peace.” For many deep, structural and cultural reasons, the collaborative expansion of this program has made visible the harsh reality that there is a need for and desire from young people to develop the skills to converse about and engage in civic issues, both local and global. The NGP program provides a forum that develops bonds and trust across metro neighborhoods, different ethnic groups, and economic status.

Finally, it’s become clear from the NGP program expansion made possible by the SAIS Collaboration Grant that there are potential community partners that emerge and become active through the implementation of NGP and projects to promote youth involvement in peacebuilding. In 2017, alone, partners such as Rotary International, local representatives of the United Way and Human Rights Commissions, universities, and corporate community affairs groups have become connected and energized by this initiative.

 


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