James Costello: Students changing the world

May 18, 2014 

The Modesto Peace/Life Center sincerely thanks reporter John Holland and The Modesto Bee for featuring our organization (“Q&A: Work done in the spirit of nonviolence,” May 5, Page A1). One question he asked: “How were you involving young people?” needs further elaboration.

An important, inadvertently unmentioned event was our Social Justice Youth Leadership Conferences held for four consecutive years. Spearheaded by dynamic Modesto teachers, Mike and Jana Chiavetta, and sponsored by the center, these gatherings brought together 80 to 100 Stanislaus County high school students each year, connecting them to local nonprofit agencies. The conferences featured speakers, musicians and activities designed to inspire teenagers to become more conscious of and involved in various social causes. These students were interested, enthusiastic and their energy was contagious and inspirational.

Newly retired U.S. District Court Judge Frank Damrell spoke movingly on civil rights. Another conference brought Bonnie Kay from Free the Children. Iraq war veteran Aaron Hinde of Iraq Veterans Against War shared his painful experiences and the need for peace. There were workshops on nonviolent communication, bullying and environmental issues. The overarching idea was “students can be the change that they want to see in the world.” Some are undoubtedly changing the world now.



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