PeaceJam Program Introduced to the County
The Nobel Peace Prize is highly regarded internationally – yet few know what its Laureates do after they win. For 14 Laureates – including the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu – their post-Prize work involves inspiring and mentoring high school students under the PeaceJam Program. Since its founding in 1996, PeaceJam has affected 1.3 million students; this year, it has come to Montgomery County.
For the entire second semester, two separate “cohorts,” or groups, of MCPS students will meet weekly. Each cohort meets for an hour and a half, one on Wednesdays and the other on Thursdays. During meetings, the “PeaceJammers” learn about the Laureates’ past and current peace efforts, share their own experiences, and discuss plans for group projects to benefit the local and global communities.
PeaceJam brings together a wide range of students with varying passions, from protecting the environment to non-proliferation and disarmament, from global health and wellness to conflict resolution. For some participants, the desire to create lasting change has been inspired by personal experience. “My parents are Deaf and unfortunately experienced healthcare discrimination in the United States. They have been denied medical service and even been misdiagnosed because of the miscommunication and inaccessibility of an American Sign Language interpreter. This needs more investment and attention as individuals' lives are at risk because of inequitable treatment over a quality they cannot control,” Janetta Blake-Aranbayeva, one of the program mentees, said.
Being part of PeaceJam’s first Montgomery County cohort doubtlessly came with challenges and expectations. However, the newness of the program was accompanied by the ability to learn and have difficult conversations. “My favorite part of the program so far is being able to potentially execute any ideas we organize and having the support of our coordinator [Ms. Michelle Avaroma] to carry out those ideas because that means the numerous issues the participants want to address can actually come to life,” Isaah Douglas, another PeaceJam participant, said.
Independent of local-level mentorship initiatives, PeaceJam also offers regional and global opportunities, including youth conferences and weekly “Saturday Sessions,” where individuals educate others about issues they feel passionately about.
The countywide cohorts are still developing their projects, so the work PeaceJam mentees will do within Montgomery County remains to be seen. However, the impact of mentoring high school students in the mold of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates will likely be felt in the years to come.
Written by Queen Balina Published by PR Department