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Thursday, August 24, 2023

Empowering tomorrow’s leaders: the Peace Innovators Scholarship & Mentoring Program

by: Joey Ou                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

In a world full of uncertainty, itis important to support and guide young leaders who are eager to create a positive influence in their communities.The Peace Innovators Scholarship & Mentoring Program,organized bythe Kindred Credit Union, the Centre for Peace Advancement, and The Ripple Effect Education, gathers students from high schools across Ontario and gives young leaders the tools to tackle issues they deeply care about and offers a strong support system to help them they succeed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   At the core of the Peace Innovators Program are workshops and mentorship opportunities that carefully guide participants towards making real and meaningful changes. This year’s program kicked off with a retreat at Conrad Grebel University College on August 9 and 10, launching a year-long journey that offers insights into bringing peace-building ideas to schools and communities. One of the workshops, called "Peace Building 101" and led by Eric Lepp, Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Grebel, helped participants grasp the fundamental principles of creating peace in their surroundings.

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                                                                                                                                                                                       Another workshop, "Storytelling with Kindred and Problem Maps," was led by Kate Pearce, Manager of Social Impact at Kindred Credit Union. This session empowered participants with the skill of storytelling, a potent tool for sharing ideas and gathering support for their initiatives. Kate said, "I felt fortunate to present about storytelling and was inspired by the students’engagement, thoughtfulness, and contributions to our discussion." A unique mix of learning experiences ensures that participants not only comprehend the theoretical foundations of peacebuilding but also gain practical skills to effectively put their plans into action. "Their perspective on the world showed me how much they care about their families, lives, schools, and communities," added Kate.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

"Our Peace Innovators group is wonderfully diverse, reflected Laurel Boytim, Executive Director at The Ripple Effect Education.During the retreat, we learned, connected, gathered in a Circle, and built a community... we even shared stories around a campfire! Walking alongside these passionate young individuals on their journey is inspiring. They are dedicated to creating more inclusive and healthier communities where everyone is valued and finds a sense of belonging."

"It's truly thrilling to see the enthusiasm students each bring to their projects,” shared Emily Dorey, the Manager of Programs at The Ripple Effect Education. A standout moment for me was having community guests share their wisdom and expertise with the students. It served as a beautiful reminder that building peace requires community, and together, we can achieve more change by supporting and guiding one another."                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

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The Kindred Credit Union plays a central role in the Peace Innovators Program. Their strong support shows how much they care about making communities peaceful, fair, and successful.Kate Pearce remarked, "Kindred has and continues to be a strong supporter for the Peace Innovators program. There is a strong connection through The Ripple Effect Education and the Centre for Peace Advancement to our collective goals and desire for peaceful, just, and prosperous communities. We hope that our ongoing support will inspire this cohort and future groups to learn and grow."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

With excitement and curiosity, this year’s cohort of 15 Peace Innovators eagerly anticipate the upcoming months and the Showcase event in April.Andre Espinel, a Grade 12 student from Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School in Guelph captured the heart of Peace Innovators: "This program shines a light on the leadership that young people are bringing, which the world really needs, especially when there's division. These connections will only make society better."

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In a world that desires positive change, the Peace Innovators Scholarship & Mentoring Program shines as a symbol of hope. It empowers young leaders not only to imagine a better future but also to actively create it with their strong dedication, innovative ideas, and unwavering focus on peace. Supported by mentors, workshops, and a community of peers who share their goals, these Peace Innovators are embarking on a journey of transformation that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on their communities and beyond. Don't miss the showcase in April, where you can see the inspiring innovators and their projects in action!