It's Peace Week at Ventura High

Campus club hopes to stir more activism

By Marjorie Hernandez,
April 11, 2007

Ventura High School sophomore Patrick Joyner looked at pictures of soldiers and Marines in uniform that were glued onto wooden panels and displayed Tuesday near the school's senior lawn.

Patrick stared at the serious but proud faces of thousands of young men and women- killed while serving in Iraq. Many were just a few years older than Patrick, 15.

"It's really depressing to see how young they were," he said. "My friend and I were thinking of joining up, but this definitely makes you think twice. They look like they're just out of high school."

Patrick and hundreds of other students at Ventura High perused booths and anti-war displays Tuesday during the school's Peace Week. Representatives from organizations such as Veterans for Peace, Beyond War and the Anti-Defamation League attended Tuesday's lunchtime event and passed out fliers to students.

Peace Week was organized by the school's Peacers Club, which has about a dozen members. In addition to Tuesday's event, the club is hosting a Peace Trivia game and live entertainment from local folk artists this week.

Peacers Club co-founders Lauren Weiner and Lauren Steinbaum said the goal of its first Peace Week is to show students how they can change the world by getting involved in worthwhile causes.

"We are not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today," said Weiner, 16. "I don't feel like you can criticize the world around you unless you make the attempt to make tangible changes."

Steinbaum said the Peacers Club was founded in August 2005 for students interested in social justice issues.

Mark Schmidt, a world history teacher and Peacers Club faculty adviser, said the club organized all of this week's events and tapped into the expertise of local peace activists.

"It's an example of the quality of students we have here," Schmidt said. "The response was really good. At the very least, it exposed other kids and staff to the idea of a peaceful resolution to international and domestic conflicts."

Veterans for Peace member George Lewis said he was glad to see so many students approach the different booths Tuesday.

Students coming to his booth were asked to turn a Spinning Wheel of Peace, which had different questions, such as "Should we bring the troops back home?" The students' answers were recorded for possible use in future literature, Lewis said.

Freshman Melissa McElhouse checked out some of the handouts provided by the various organizations. "I think overall this was a good idea," said Melissa, 14. "But some of the kids don't care as much, because it doesn't directly affect them."

Freshman Walter Harper said the display of young soldiers and Marines killed in combat hit home.

"It made me think of my uncle," Walter said. "He was stationed in Iraq, but now he's back. I think I'm going to talk to him about what it was like there."