In early May students in the Peace Studies elective taught by History Department Chair Beth Ruekberg concluded their semester long Peace Action Projects with multimedia presentations. Each student was tasked with identifying an issue that was important to her, developing an action plan, delivering a presentation, and then reflecting on the work.
Peace action plans had to be in place for at least six weeks during which time students actively pursued effecting positive change. Among the elements of these plans was the requirement that students develop a dialogue with someone involved in their issue area. Some examples include:
• A junior, who was trying to raise awareness of the need to help Iraqi War veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder talked with veterans about their experiences and their needs;
• A junior working to reduce family illiteracy spoke with several different people working at literacy centers. In addition, she has committed to tutoring those with literacy needs;
• A senior connected with people running animal shelters to find out what happens to some dogs who are rescued from puppy mills. She, too, has committed to spending time volunteering at the shelter.
• Two students created materials that immediately had an impact on their peers. A senior developed a PSA to alert teenagers to the dangers of texting and driving. Another senior created a flyer about the dangers of dating abuse.
Many students who are not in the class have commented on the powerful impact of these materials. They found their way well beyond the walls of the classroom. Many students created Facebook or Twitter pages as part of their plans as well as engaging in more direct action. Some of these pages can be seen at the following sites:
AIDS in South Africa
End Family Illiteracy
End Family Illiteracy (Twitter)
Drive Safe Now (Eyes on the Road)
Help End Animal Experimentation
Help Stop Violence Against Native American Women
Recycle Plastic Bags
Stop Discrimination Against Hispanic Immigrants
Stop Puppy Mills
Stop Teen Dating Abuse
Support Veterans with PTSD
The final stage of the project was to reflect on their vision, their actions, the obstacles they faced, and what they learned. Ms. Ruekberg said, “It was abundantly clear that the lessons were valuable, whether about the topic or about the process one must pursue to make a difference. Above all, they learned that making a difference can happen in small steps. One does not have to change the world in a day to have an impact.”