Public talk kicks off for PeaceJam Mid-South conference for 280 regional youth to discuss social justice issues, serve community
Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, former president of Costa Rica and 1987 Nobel Peace Laureate, spoke last night at a free, public event as part of Nashville’s second annual PeaceJam and will join student volunteers this afternoon at the Cole Elementary School Family Resource Center (5060 Colemont Drive) as part of the event. PeaceJam is built around leading Nobel Peace Laureates who work personally with youth to pass on the spirit, skills and wisdom they embody. The goal of PeaceJam is to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world. Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his courageous efforts in the Central America peace process.
Belmont University began a partnership in 2012 with locally-based nonprofit Students Taking a Right Stand (STARS) to be the PeaceJam Mid-South affiliate, which includes Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas and Kentucky. Last night’s public talk in the Curb Event Center opened a weekend-long conference expected to draw more than 280 college, high school and middle school students to explore issues of social justice while also engaging them in service to the community. In addition to workshops and team building exercises, students will participate in a variety of service projects during the weekend, including volunteer efforts with the Feed the Children, Thriftsmart, Cole Elementary, Second Harvest Food Bank, Sole Hope, Rocketown and Nashville Rescue Mission, among others.
Dr. Mimi Barnard, Belmont’s assistant provost for interdisciplinary studies & global education, said, “The PeaceJam concept brings together today’s greatest minds for peace with tomorrow’s leaders, inspiring ideas that will help govern our future world. This collaboration between Belmont and STARS to host the Mid-South PeaceJam will certainly make an impact on individual lives, but I also expect it to bring change in our communities and beyond. We are honored to have distinguished world leader Dr. Oscar Arias at our 2014 PeaceJam Mid-South Conference.”
STARS CEO Rodger Dinwiddie added, “With words from Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Oscar Arias as their guide, hundreds of students will serve the Nashville community this weekend, seeking to create a better world one volunteer at a time. We’re excited to see these young people experience this life-changing event and be inspired to tackle tough issues now and in the future.”
From the day he took office in 1986 as president of Costa Rica, Arias felt that his mission was to create peace not just for Costa Rica, but throughout the region. On his election day, the presidents of nine Latin American countries come together to hear his plea for democracy and liberty. Central America found itself in the middle of the Cold War between the USA and the USSR. The “Arias Plan” called on the leaders of Central America to limit the size of their armies, assure freedom of the press and hold open free elections. He also made great efforts to battle poverty and improve education for the people of his region. With the Nobel monetary award, President Arias formed the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, which has focused on peace, justice and disarmament and tackled challenging social problems such as the trafficking of drugs, arms and women and children.
Since its launch in 1996, more than one million youth have participated in the PeaceJam program, creating and implementing almost two million service projects.
A nationally recognized and evidenced-based resource for student assistance, training and professional consultation, STARS assists students, families and schools with prevention, intervention and treatment services addressing bullying, substance abuse, violence, and social and emotional barriers to success. Founded in 1984, STARS staff operate in schools and community sites throughout Middle Tennessee via STARS Specialists, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services as well as through Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA) as a licensed alcohol and drug out-patience treatment facility. Their Kids On The Block puppetry program helps educate kindergarten through sixth grade students about health and social concerns that affect their lives while promoting an understanding and acceptance of all children and adults regardless of their differences. For more information, visit www.starsnashville.org.