Local youth innovate for peace in the Region of Waterloo

Wednesday, May 12, 2021
by Centre for Peace Advancement

On May 5th, the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, The Ripple Effect Education (TREE) and Kindred Credit Union celebrated the 2020-2021 Peace Innovators Scholarship and Mentoring Program participants. Supporters of the program heard from students about the social issues they tackled, what they learned, and how they are going to continue to build peace in their communities.

The Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, together with their partners The Ripple Effect Education (TREE) and Kindred Credit Union, gathered virtually to celebrate the learning and impact of this year’s Peace Innovators Scholarship and Mentoring Program participants. Members of the community, mentors, family and friends learned about the work that the 2020-2021 cohort of students have undertaken to tackle social problems in their community.

The eight students in this year’s cohort addressed issues around environmentalism and sustainability, equity and inclusion for racialized and LGBTQ+ identifying students, youth mental wellness and safe spaces online, and post-secondary education among low-income high school students.

The Peace Innovators Scholarship and Mentoring Program offers grade 11 and 12 students the opportunity, tools, and support to build and implement a plan to address a social issue that they are passionate about in their community. Students are supported by a mentor in their community and The Ripple Effect Education (TREE). Since it began in 2017, 26 students have enhanced their learning and made a meaningful impact through the program. Many of these students have gone on to pursue post-secondary education and continue to innovate and build peace in their communities.

Catch up with past Peace Innovators with A word from Peace Innovators alumni

2021 Peace Innovators Alumni photos from left to right: Heraa, Aidan, Hamad, Jennifer, Maria, Hana, Marina and Saaniya
Program participants learned skills to improve their contributions within peace-tech, a peacebuilding sector where technology, media, and data are used to support or improve peacebuilding opportunities. Aidan Morton Ninomiya, a grade 12 student at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate, created an accessible video series to educate his peers about climate action and, with the support of another participant, developed skills with a novel editing software. Hamad Sultan, a grade 11 student at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute, created technology to identify harmful text in online spaces and plans to continue building healthy and positive communities through technology by pursuing further education in machine learning.

Participants engaged with organizations and governing bodies in their communities, learning about the complexity of making change within systems of governance. Grade 11 Sir John A. MacDonald Secondary School student Jennifer Li created educational ‘cheat sheets’ filled with terms and information to support LGBTQ+ students and is working to circulate these resources across her school board. Saaniya Saraf, a grade 11 student at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute implemented a two-week long fundraiser in collaboration with REEP Green Solutions on Instagram to encourage community members to live a more sustainable life. Saraf also learned about gaps in the municipal waste management system, particularly for apartment dwellers who want access to composting services. As they shared at the Showcase, Li and Saraf both learned that it takes extensive time and resources to make changes at higher levels of community leadership and asked themselves important questions about working to affect systems change.

Hana Adham and Marina Wheaton both created projects that hit close to home, learning how to make change for students in the region. Adham, a grade 11 student from Sir John A. MacDonald Secondary School created and delivered a workshop to teachers at her school to teach about racism and inclusion in schools, covering topics including implicit bias and the importance of correct name pronunciation. Wheaton, a grade 11 student from Waterloo-Oxford District Secondary School created Post Education, a virtual and physical envelope filled with post-secondary education information for low-income students and families. Wheaton aimed to see an increase in post-secondary enrollment among first generation students in the short term and to support the alleviation of generational poverty in the long-term. Both Adham and Wheaton plan to continue their work on their projects next year.

Along their journeys in the program, student also learned important lessons about themselves. Grade 11 Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute student Maria Khan and Craig Kielburger Secondary School student Heraa Muqri worked together on Project: Break the Stigma, a social media campaign and forthcoming podcast raising awareness around youth mental health. For Khan and Muqri this meant learning about taking care of their own mental wellness as they worked to support their peers. “You can’t help others unless you help yourself”, shares Muqri.

Interested in learning more about the Peace Innovators Scholarship and Mentoring Program? Visit the website or sign up for the Centre for Peace Advancement e-newsletter to stay informed about upcoming opportunities.