Every person is unique in his or her own way. They come from different places, have different physical appearances, are different ages and are of different races. Despite these differences, however, people are also very similar in many ways, whether they realize it or not.
Growing Peace, a new club taking root at Fairmont, has made one of its missions to help students see those similarities. Growing Peace helps students see others for who they really are and not judge them simply by their appearance, according to Social Studies teacher Jessica Kelly, the adviser of the club.
Kelly is very excited about this new club. “Growing Peace is a club in which students are encouraged to see beyond their differences and instead support each other,” she said. It was actually a club in the past at Fairmont that didn’t get much attention, but student interest has been growing steadily this year. Fairmont High School Principal Dan VonHandorf and Activities Coordinator Jenny Borchers had the idea of bringing back Growing Peace in a new and more interesting way in order to really catch students’ attention.
It seems as though it has been working, since around 80 students are involved in Growing Peace. Kelly says she’s very proud of all the students participating in Growing Peace and appreciates the effort they’ve brought to the club. “Their efforts are paying off and we are very excited for what’s to come,” said Kelly.
On Dec. 3, Growing Peace hosted HumanKind Day, marking their biggest entry into Fairmont life. The goal was to bring students with varying backgrounds and nationalities together to share differences, but mostly to focus on what they have in common. Seventy-seven students attended HumanKind Day. Some were recommended by teachers and principals to create more diversity and because of their backgrounds. HumanKind Day was treated just like a field trip except it took place at school in the library.
At the event, students were split into groups and sent to nine different stations, where they discussed different topics. People mostly discussed the struggles of high school, how students feel about high school and the importance of not judging people quickly just by the way they appear.
HumanKind Day was received well from many students such as Fairmont junior Neda Azzam, who says she has encountered problems with other students at Fairmont. However, she said she felt that HumanKind Day really helped her and the other people attending understand one another.
“Some problems I have faced in high school are petty girl fights and unjustified judgments. However, as more and more of us have been talking about Growing Peace and increased acceptance, I do feel like a lot of the student body is showing initiative to change. That shows a lot of character,” said Azzam.
Fairmont junior Jay Sosebee, much like Azzam, has faced stereotyping difficulties, but he has ignored the comments people have made in his past. He said HumanKind Day helped him learn to not judge people just by how they appear.
“At one of the stations, we talked about stereotyping. I have been stereotyped because of my ethnicity and status in school. I learned new things about people that I couldn’t tell from first glance; it was cool to see where people come from and what they have gone through,” said Sosebee.
Fairmont junior Ryan Barnette loves being part of this organization and can’t wait for more exciting events. Barnette was very enthusiastic about HumanKind Day. “I think it’s great that students can get together and express their differences and find similarities within all of us,” said Barnette.
Fairmont junior Terrell Dorsey also enjoys being part of a club that he feels can really change people. “I think it’s important to understand people and not just judge them by how they look or come off to be. Growing Peace helps students reach out to others,’” said Dorsey.
Because the first HumanKind Day went so well, there is a buzz about having a second HumanKind Day in the spring. Kelly says the club members have some great ideas for encouraging and discussing how students can express their backgrounds to others.
In addition to hosting large events to encourage acceptance and peaceful behavior in the schools, Growing Peace also takes field trips. Some club members attended the Teen Summit hosted every year by the National Conference for Community and Justice of Greater Dayton at Sinclair Community College. Any student who signed up to go or expressed interest went on the field trip. This event helped students understand how to create peaceful communities without using violence toward one another.
“The field trip was cool,” said Barnette. “I had the opportunity to talk to students from other schools and hear their stories. I am really excited for more field trips to come.”
Jessica Kelly is delighted with Growing Peace and everything the students are doing and working for. She hopes to continue this club into next year at Fairmont.
“The students who are part of the club are so enthusiastic and sincere, it inspires me every day!” she said.