Rock Hill school forms human peace sign to celebrate Peace Day

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comSeptember 19, 2013 

— In the sunshine of Wednesday afternoon, 900 middle school students and teachers filed out of the back doors of Sullivan Middle School, forming a large circle, then a line that cut through the center, then two shorter spokes from the center of the line.

In a remarkably short amount of time – and in orderly fashion – Sullivan’s population had formed a gigantic peace sign, part of a week of education to endorse the International Day of Peace, which is officially celebrated by the United Nations this Saturday.

“As an (International Baccalaureate) school, we’re always looking at international events and really what does peace mean to our students individually, on their own level, and what does it mean to the world?” said Sullivan Principal Michael Waiksnis.

Many of the students wore blue, the color worn by U.N. peacekeeping forces around the world. Once the peace sign was fully formed, as directed by band director Paul Guzewicz, eight students released blue and silver balloons symbolizing negative behaviors like gossip, anger and ignorance.

This teaches the students to let go of these things, said school IB coordinator Chris McLean.

“To be truly peaceful, people have to let go of hate and make room for caring,” Waiksnis told the students before the balloons were released. “They have to let go of being intolerant and embrace being open-minded.”

It’s no secret that middle school students are some of the most likely to exhibit behaviors like bullying, and eighth-grader Tyler Troche said he hopes the peace event and education helps stop bullying at Sullivan.

Kids “think they have stress at home, so it’s good to take it out on someone else,” he said, when asked why students bully others.

Another student said she doesn’t think the world is very peaceful today, but she thinks it can be.

“Peace means to me when you have no problems with anyone,” said Jada Green, a sixth-grader.

But one of the goals of celebrating Peace Day was to get the students also to think of the bigger picture of peace, guidance counselor Sandra Holeman said. Educating students about peace falls in line with “caring,” one of the IB program’s “learner qualities.”

“We don’t see ourselves as an isolated entity in the city of Rock Hill,” she said, “but we look at ourselves as global participants in the whole worldwide process.”

The International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981 “to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways.”

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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