our story

It started with 5 kids, $100, and a thirst for change.

On September 10, 2011, we—Jack Anthony, Patrik Kast, Kate Kirby, Klay Roberts, and Fish Stark, five juniors and seniors from the Key School in Annapolis, MD—attended a conference hosted by the Annapolis Peace and Justice Center. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 was the next day, and the APJC wanted to involve a group of students in a conversation about what would make the next ten years safer.

We heard from Senator Ben Cardin. We heard from military officers. We heard from professors. We heard from United Nations officials. But the presentation that stuck with us the most was that of Mr. Colman McCarthy, a writer, a professor, and an advocate for peace.

He began his presentation by standing up in the front of the room and holding out a hundred-dollar bill. He offered it to anyone—any single student in the audience—who could tell him who the following six people were.

First, he named Robert E. Lee, Paul Revere, and Ulysses S. Grant. Every hand in the audience went up.

Then, he asked “Who was Ida B. Wells?” An ashamed hush fell over the crowd, and only a few hands were seen.

“Who was Jeanette Rankin?” Again, confused whispers and few hands.

“And who was Barbara Lee?” The same.

Colman McCarthy returned the $100 bill to his pocket and made his case. Children, he contested, learn all about the men who break the peace, but not about the women who make the peace. Schools teach about weapons and war, but not about peace and conflict resolution.

For a society where violence permeates the media, is this what we want to teach? For a country where the rate and severity of bullying in schools is on the rise, is this the example we want to set?

Colman McCarthy’s presentation spoke to us, and we left the conference itching and determined to do something—anything—to shake up the status quo.

The APJC was offering a grant to the student, or group of students, that could come up with the best idea to make the next ten years safer. We kicked the issue around—what would really help kids understand to treat each other with love, respect, and kindness?

We remembered Colman McCarthy’s words, and one of us suggested:

OK, why don’t we teach students about peace?

If students aren’t learning enough about the history and values of peacemaking, why don’t we remedy that? Why don’t we develop a comprehensive curriculum that teaches them about nonviolence, about tolerance, about compassion, about making a positive difference? Why don’t we equip kids with these values and put them in that mindset instead of letting the issue lie?

We worked on a rough draft of our curriculum and won the grant from the APJC, which gave us the money and confidence to help us realize that the work we were doing was important, and could make a real difference.

We piloted it in December of that year in one 5thgrade class at the Key School. We used pre-and post-tests to figure out what the students had absorbed; what worked well and what didn’t. We combined this with our experience of what was and wasn’t effective and the knowledge we’d gleaned from workshopping the curriculum with educators to facilitate a total overhaul of the curriculum.

We took our new, improved version to even more 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classrooms, and saw firsthand the effects of peace education—a greater awareness of bullying, a greater understanding of citizenship, and a greater appreciation for the values behind peace. We also began reaching out to educators, policymakers, and activists, who listened to our message—and loved it.

As we began our second year of operations, we committed to expanding the Initiative so that we would be able to bring peace education to more kids across the country. We applied for—and received—a slot at an educational conference, we used our grant money to purchase a website, and began reaching out to other schools, encouraging students to start their own TPI affiliates that can work together to spread our message and curriculum to schools across the country. Students, educators, and policymakers alike heard our message and responded. TPI now has over 25 affiliates in over a dozen states, as well as internationally.

Our growing staff and supporters are a testament to the importance of our cause. Violence is a growing problem in our schools, our cities, and the world at large. If we can teach our children—our future leaders—that the path of peace and tolerance, not violence and intolerance, is the best one, we can do our part to shape a safer, stronger, healthier world.

We must stand up to bullying, stand up to intolerance, stand up to violence, and teach our children the values that lead them away from those paths.

We can do no less.

 

  NEXT: developing a mission
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