A giant dove made from sheets and placed atop wooden rods led the Ashland Middle School students out into the dew-covered field Friday morning. Their goal: to construct a giant peace sign as a celebration of the International Day of Peace.
Various students, some donning flower crowns, described their personal peace pledge, or what peace means to them, at an assembly led by the Roots & Shoots teacher Kristina Healy. The theme of the assembly was “The Right to Peace.”
“Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on Sept. 21,” Healy said. “The (United Nations) General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.”
After the assembly the students followed the dove held by AMS Roots and Shoots members outside. Strategically, they placed their paper pinwheels attached to pencils into the ground. Each pinwheel had on it each student’s personal peace pledge, ranging from pledges to simply be nice to other students to pledges of a larger scale to make the world a better place. Videos about peace were shown to the remainder of the students waiting for their turn. Music about peace was blasted from a couple of large speakers during the installation of the pinwheels. Once all the pinwheels were placed, a moment of silence was observed as a gesture of solidarity with people around the world also marking the day.
Roots & Shoots member Tara Vivrett, an eighth grader, said her pledge was that she hopes everyone would treat each other they way they would like to be treated.
“Some people don’t realize that other people also have struggles and they need to help other people be peaceful by doing the same so that they can look up to them,” Vivrett said.
Delegates from the World Peace Flame Foundation, in town for the lighting of the flame Friday afternoon, attended the pinwheel peace event. The World Peace Flame is the second in the nation according to an Australian delegate, Angela Baker.
The flame will burn all day every day and represents peace, freedom and celebration. The AMS Roots & Shoots students, dubbed the World Peace Flame Keepers, will refuel the flame every Friday for the rest of the school year.
“Then we’ll pass it off to someone else, so it’s a constant reminder that you carry peace within yourself 24/7 and it’s a place that we can go and think about that,” Healy said.
She said she was inspired to bring the peace day celebrations to Ashland after teaching in Shanghai, China, and experiencing them there. This is AMS’ second year honoring the day, but it has been three years in the making to get a World Peace Flame in Ashland.
In a statement written by Healy, she said, “There are few opportunities in our lifetimes to make contributions which have local, national and international significance, directly impact the aspirations of people of our daily lives and the lives of future generations and become a proud part of our own legacy. The World Peace Flame will provide hope and inspiration to our future leaders and light the hearts of all who visit it.”
Roots & Shoots is a national youth service organization founded by Jane Goodall in 1991 in hopes of inspiring people to treat each other with respect and to make the world a better place.
Kendra Caruso, a seventh grader, said the group performs service projects around the community, such as pulling weeds and food drives.
“We basically make our community a better place by helping out, including others and creating peace,” Caruso said.
Another Roots & Shoots member, eighth grader Levi Predpelski, said the responsibility of refilling the Peace Flame, located across Walker Street from the school, is gratifying because it is a reminder to be peaceful every day.
“Peace isn’t just something you can do in one day, it’s something that you have to keep doing to make the world different,” Predpelski said.