HumanKIND Day helps student enter ‘the circle,’ find peace


I thought the assignment would be easy. Label yourself. Write one stereotype about yourself on a nametag. I thought about what to put down. Should I put down something simple like “boy” or “junior?” Or should I put down something that others would label me as, like “nerd” or “oddball”?

I finally decided to put down “nerd” … I fit the bill pretty well. That’s when I saw that HumanKIND Day would be something more than a fun event and a day out of classes.

The second annual HumanKIND Day at Fairmont High School took place on Dec. 10, 2011. The daylong event, sponsored by Growing Peace, involved about 100 students and 8 staff members, and the goal was to help students learn ways that humans are the same in order to foster peace among us. Some of the participants had eagerly signed up to participate in HumanKIND Day, while others were contacted and urged to participate. No one, however, was forced to sign up.

I started the day in the gym, listing to Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf and Growing Peace Adviser Jessica Kelly introduce the guest speakers. The visitors came from places like T.J.’s Place of Hope and the Dayton International Peace Museum to talk to everybody about peace. As I heard the list of people and the places they represented, I grew more interested in hearing what they had to say to us.

After they spoke, the entire group of participated in an activity called Enter the Circle, and it had a very big impact on me.

In Enter the Circle, Kelly said a statement that ranged from something as simple as “Enter the circle if you are a boy” to deeper distinctions such as “Enter the circle if you have ever felt unattractive” or “Enter the circle if anyone has ever made fun of you.” All you could hear during the activity were Kelly asking the questions and the footsteps of the other students.

By the end of the activity, I had gained a great appreciation of the fact that other people have the same feelings that I do. As I left that event, I was ready and excited to see what else they had planned for us.

After Enter the Circle, we all headed to the library, which featured a number of stations that offered different activities.  I started with the stereotype activity. As I said, everyone had to label themselves and put it on a nametag. The introductory session in the gym had prepared me to be open and honest about all the possibilities for my own label. Even after I decided on “nerd,” I kept thinking of more possibilities. Out of all the activities we did, I think this one had the biggest impact on me.

I continued through the other nine stations and their activities. I learned a lot through many of them, especially from the speakers from the Dayton International Peace Museum and the T.J.’s Place of Hope. All the activities gave me a new perspective on how to look at certain situations, and I had a lot of fun with the group discussions. It was great to hear what the other members of the group thought.

I really enjoyed all of the activities and found that there was always something that I could draw from one of them to use in my daily life. The speaker from the Dayton International Peace Museum told us that we can start the day on a positive note by complimenting ourselves on something, instead of starting it in a negative way by complaning about the morning. I’ve taken to doing just that after he spoke to us.

After we had gone through all of the activities and eaten, the entire group headed down to the Recital Hall and watched a documentary called “God Grew Tired of Us.” It was about the Sudan Civil War and the negative way it affected the children of raided villages.

The scenes they showed were horribly sad to watch, but I couldn’t look away. I saw the boys of the villages having to walk hundreds of miles to find any sort of shelter, their bodies malnourished from the long walks and lack of nutrition. I was happy to see that the scenes changed to most of those same children in a refugee camp years later, with a group of them waiting to go to America.

I really loved the scenes of the boys’ first introduction to America. Everything was so new to them; it was funny to see how they did some of the things that we consider routine. For example, one morning they woke up and instead of making coffee, they mashed crackers together and mixed it with milk, all in the coffee jug. Everyone laughed at this point, but it still showed us how they started to adapt to our society. I had to leave early for a scheduled photograph, but I enjoyed every single moment of the documentary that I got to see.

I truly enjoyed HumanKIND Day. I had a ton of fun, and I got to learn a lot about how to live a more peaceful life with other people. I’m hoping that there will be another HumanKIND day next year; if so, I will definitely sign up!