Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Syracuse Seeds of Peace Participate in Playwright Workshop

Syracuse, NY: On Sunday, April 6, six Syracuse Seeds participated in a playwright workshop led by Gloria Heffernan, Director of Service Learning at LeMoyne College. The workshop introduced the Seeds to the idea of using playwright as a tool for advancing the mission of Seeds of Peace and challenged Seeds to think of their stories as subjects of playwright.

The Seeds were very engaged, thoughtful, and had a lot of fun writing and acting out small improvised scenes. Gloria Heffernan engaged the Seeds by starting from their knowledge of dialogue toward reflecting on questions that would aid them in the script writing. Amidst the often tragedy-centered playwright, the emphasis on ‘playwright centered in conflict’ and on ‘conflict not ending in violence’ provided the Seeds with refreshing outlook to playwright.

From Left to Right: Anna, Michael, Cimone, Ranya, Raiss, Gloria (workshop leader), and Abdinoor.

From Left to Right: Abdinoor, Anna, Cimone, Raiss, Ranya, and Michael.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spoken Word Poetry Slam at Fowler High School

As a result of a partnership between Syracuse Seeds of Peace and Diversity Dialogue at Fowler High School in Syracuse, NY, students from Fowler participated in a Spoken Word Poetry Slam on February 10, 2014. The Slam consisted of six presentations of five spoken word poems with themes ranging from personal struggles, journeys, and affirmations to community enlightenment and empowerment. In attendance were Principal James Palumbo; Teacher Erin Clarke, Diversity Dialogue Coordinator; Jose Cossa, Syracuse Seeds of Peace Coordinator; and student presenters and student guests.

Here are some of the poems rendered:
  • Cimone Jordan- Melancholy Wallflower
  • Nahahme Howard- Choosing To Be Infinite
  • Ahmanee Simmons- Spotlight

Friday, March 28, 2014

Syracuse Seeds of Peace PSs Meet Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner

Three Syracuse Seeds of Peace Peer Supporters (PSs), namely, Cimone Jordan, Anna Nguyen, and Abdinoor Mohamed, represented the Syracuse Seeds in a lunch meeting with Mayor Miner this morning (Thursday, March 27) at City Hall, from 11:30 until noon. A PSs' initiative, the meeting was to inform the Mayor of the various efforts that Seeds are involved in, their plans, and then to present the Mayor with a letter to request the proclamation of August 22 as Syracuse Seeds of Peace Day. In their letter, the PSs stated the following:

We ask that you (Mayor Miner) proclaim August 22 as Syracuse Seeds of Peace Day. The main goal of this day would be to urge citizens to celebrate and support efforts to build a society where we can coexist and come to respect one another. On this day, our main goal would be to serve the community through volunteerism and to spread the message of peace. If you would be willing to collaborate with Syracuse Seeds of Peace, we could work together to mobilize the community to practice acts that encourage harmony.

Left: Cimone, Abdinoor, and Anna talking with Mayor Stephanie Miner; Right: Derrick Dorsey and Jose Cossa. Photo by Keith O'Brien, InterFaith Works of Central New York

For more pictures of the meeting with the Mayor, please visit the following site:https://www.facebook.com/InterFaithWorksCNY

I am very proud to say that Cimone, Abdinoor, and Anna did a fabulous job representing the Syracuse Seeds. We look forward to more initiatives of this kind, both at the school and community level. For instance, Lisa Neville (Ella's mom) spearheaded an initiative by inviting Seeds to her home to participate in two writing workshops in preparation for a talk they will be giving this Saturday (March 29th at 5 p.m.) and Sunday (March 30th at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.). You are all welcome to attend these services and support our representatives--Cimone, Raiss, Abdi, Abdinoor, Ella, and Ranya--as they give a talk about Syracuse Seeds of Peace to the Community at Saint Lucy's Church, 432 Gifford Street in Syracuse.

Syracuse Seeds of Peace Meet to Tackle School Issues

By José Cossa, Ph.D.
Syracuse, NY, February 25th, 2014: Sixty Seeds from Syracuse City High Schools met at Fowler High School to discuss how to build community and to advance the Seeds of Peace mission in their schools. The meeting started with four Fowler students—Cimone Jordan, Ahmanee Simmons, Nahahme Howard, and Husam Jameel—sharing their ‘spoken word’ poems springing from their involvement in the ‘Diversity Dialogue & Seeds of Peace Initiative’. The initiative is led by Erin Clarke, English Teacher at Fowler, and boasts the support of Susan Centore, Career Advisor at Fowler; Michaela Clark, English Teacher at Fowler; and, Fowler’s Principal James Palumbo.
The meeting aimed at fostering an appreciation for “responsible action on issues of concern and engaging and inspiring others to take action on behalf of their communities", a foundational goal of the Syracuse Seeds of Peace Program. Derrick Dorsey, Director of Community Wide Dialogue at InterFaith Works and a member of the Syracuse City School District Board, assured students of the indispensability of their peace-building role in their respective schools and briefed them on the challenges, fun, and meaningfulness of the Seeds of Peace summer camp experience. Mr. Dorsey held a Q&A to address questions pertaining to camp. José Cossa, Syracuse Seeds of Peace Coordinator, offered a brief elevated pitch on students’ role as ‘peacepreneurs’ in their schools and communities.
Photo by Erin Clarke, English Teacher at Fowler
The meeting counted with the support of adult allies in the five schools, namely Erin Clarke and Susan Centore (Fowler); Margaret Durant and Julie Popp (Corcoran); Cindy Squillace (ITC); Drisa Boyce (Nottingham); and, Erica Brier-Kennedy (Henninger). Following the talks, students met in groups, facilitated by their respective adult allies, by school—Fowler, Henninger, Corcoran, Nottingham, and ITC—and a Peer Supporter’s group. The groups discussed and prepared a presentation about what they are doing, and/or plan to do, in their school to carry forward the Seeds of Peace mission. After the students presentations, the Seeds of peace Camp online Application was launched.

On Being a Seed of Peace

By Cimone Jordan

Seeds of Peace is your needs answered. It’s every vibrant emotion bottled into 30,160 minutes best known as two weeks. 2 weeks that will allow you to wipe away the grime that defiles the window you look at life through, 2 weeks in which you form bonds like no other. 2 weeks that will change your life forever. Sometimes, in life, certain events and circumstances allow us to be brought to our knees. I soon learned that Seed of Peace was the place that would equip me with the ability to not only deal with these instances but grow through them.

Based on my camp experience last year and this year, I would love it if I have every student in the Syracuse City School District attend camp for at least one summer. Seeing how this is impossible, I think it’s important that we bring the best parts of camp back to Syracuse and interlace them with the clubs and curriculum we already have. Since there’s a Seeds of Peace club in every high school, I believe that’s where we should start. First, we should allow the Seeds in the entire district to get to know each other better. This way we can all work on one accord. We could hold small events where students are given the chance to interact with one another in a relaxed setting. Just as kids need to know each other and get involved so should parents. An idea came from the Maine Seeds that we should hold a cafe night for the parents also. This way we could teach parents about the message of SOP and their child’s intentions as a part of the organization.
Photo by Bobbie Gottschalk, Co-Founder, Seeds of Peace
 Being a PS allowed me to see that dialogue was truly the heart of what camp is about. I think it would be remarkable to bring dialogue into our communities especially since the city schools in Syracuse are so diverse. When we get a lot of new members to join the club in the schools, we could conduct dialogue sessions. If the PSs took a short training course that taught about leadership through mediation, we could act as the facilitators for the sessions. Although adults can also help out, I think that if educated students acted as the facilitators, students would feel more relaxed and comfortable sharing. The sessions could be conducted during the club meetings after school. But taking it a step further, I think that it would be awesome if we could have dialogue as a block in school. We could make it the last block or period in our schedule, this way, if and when dialogue gets hard, students won’t have to worry about being unfocused during the rest of their classes since it’s the end of the day. Although spreading the SOP message around school is awesome, it would be cool if we could get involved with other organizations that promote peace.

One thing I learned at camp was to extend myself and to speak up not only for myself but for others. Many of topics we talked about in dialogue included Bullying, Women’s Rights, and Strife in warring countries. If these are topics that the members of our SOP clubs feel strongly about, we should get involved. For example, the SOP club at Fowler High School showed interest in LINK Liberation (Liberty in North Korea). Our goal would then be to raise money to help fund escape missions for oppressed North Koreans. SOP students that went to camp could to get the chance to exercise their ability to lead when it comes to fundraising projects. Meanwhile, more students could get involved throughout our school district. However, these events shouldn’t only be limited to the members of the SOP club. We could totally work with and incorporate students in the ESL divisions of our school. This way, everyone is learning about other cultures and making new friends.

One event that is making headlines in the Seeds of Peace news is the Bridges to Peace fundraising campaign. this is an example of one of the things Seeds could take part in when it comes to linking the club back to the organization. Students could attend the walk or we could hold our own small fundraisers so that we can still donate money to the cause. and when this event ends, any fundraisers the clubs put on can go towards the Seeds of Peace organization or even charities.

As we give to others, one of my intentions is that we all end up benefiting from Seeds of Peace-whether you went to camp or not. The SOP message embodies that fact that we are all different many ways, but there is always a common ground, a place where we can set aside differences and become one. When we do this, we will be able to progress, step by step. One quote that is used continuously in camp would be one from Rumi- “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there” Getting the chance to go to camp is amazing because when you arrive, before you stands that great field-biased to none, inviting to all. It is wonderful because you feel that this quote is alive and real but as we travel throughout life, we must realize that the field is in us. We must ultimately weed out the unkempt parts of our heart and sow seeds of peace. After this, we can then embrace the diversity in our community and fight ignorance.

On Being a Leader

By Ranya Shannon (2013 Seed)

            Being a leader. I didn’t really know what that meant until Seeds of Peace. I’ve been told I was a leader before but for me all this meant was taking charge of school projects or bossing my brother around. I never saw myself as someone who could make a tangible change in my community. Through the help of countless people I now see that all it takes is one person to make a difference.
            Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. One of my favorite parts of camp was dialogue. Every camper had a dialogue group of around eight to sixteen kids and two educators and we would talk about everything from problems in our community to the most personal aspects of our lives. We met almost every day and let me tell you, everyday I had a new bit of knowledge that would help me not only to be a better leader, but also to be a better person. In dialogue we learned that in order to be a true leader, you need to not look to the right or to the left, to see what your friends are doing, all you need to do is look forward to do what’s right and they will follow your example.
Photo by Bobbie Gottschalk, Co-Founder, Seeds of Peace
            While half of the camp experience was all about learning to be a leader and spreading peace and acceptance, the other half was simply about having amazing experiences and meeting new people. I can honestly say that I will never forget the friendships I made and how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to get to know people the way I did.
            One thing that shocked me about Seeds of Peace was how genuinely friendly and kind everyone was. I could sit down next to someone I’d never talked to before and have an amazing conversation with them about almost anything. As a generally shy person this was intriguing to me. I bring this back to the Seeds of Peace motto “The way life could be.” It occurred to me the life indeed could be full of such kind accepting people of different races and backgrounds all joining together with the common goal of making the world a better place.
            When I try to talk about Seeds of Peace to my family and friends I always end up saying “You had to be there.” I honestly wish I could describe to them how it felt to be in the lake after color games, or to experience bunk night with some of the greatest people I’ll ever know. I’d love nothing more for them to feel as I felt when on around the second day I realized what a special place this camp truly was. Sadly words only say so much. (Not to say I haven’t tried convincing everyone I know to apply next year.)
            Seeds of Peace changed my life in more ways than one. In camp, many times you will be asked to sum up your experience in one word, the same few words would be repeated several times. Some common ones were intense, awesome, fun etc. This exercise would always be very difficult for me because there wasn’t a word that summed up the feelings of friendship, love, peace, acceptance, yet also urgency to make a difference accurately.  I ended up choosing indescribable.