Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G6
The Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, along with its partners, The Ripple Effect Education (TREE) and Kindred Credit Union, kicks off the next cycle of the Peace Innovators Scholarship and Mentoring Program on March 1, 2021 when the 2021-2022 application period opens.
In anticipation of this, we caught up with program alumni to learn where they are now and how they look back on their time as Peace Innovators.
The Peace Innovators Scholarship and Mentoring Program introduced its first cohort of youth leaders in 2017. As the program approaches its five-year anniversary, thirteen students have successfully completed the program and another nine are gearing up for their final showcase this April. This collaborative effort between the Centre for Peace Advancement, The Ripple Effect Education (TREE), and Kindred Credit Union equips the next generation of changemakers by supporting students with targeting a social problem they are passionate about in their community.
Find out what the 2020-2021 Peace Innovators are up to in New cohort of Peace Innovators ready to cultivate community change.
But what happens after students complete the program? Do they go back to their normal lives, or continue promoting peace in their own communities? Here’s what some previous participants had to say.
Lena Schreyer was one of five students in the first cohort of Peace Innovators in 2017. Schreyer identified a gap in the mental health care system in which mental health treatment, especially for children and youth, was too reactive in nature. She therefore set out with Beecuz to proactively promote mental wellness in young people.
Beecuz is still growing, and it became officially incorporated as a non-profit organization in June 2019! Since then, Schreyer has received various awards for her work with Beecuz, and participated in accelerator programs such as the Libro Credit Union Social Enterprise Incubator, Western’s Accelerator Summer Program, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s SPARK program.
Since her time in the program, Schreyer has been studying at Western University and continues volunteering through multiple organizations. She recently completed Create Change’s Social Change Program, and will be heading to Ghana next summer to continue her work empowering and educating young girls.
By providing resources, connections with likeminded peers, and mentors who cheered her on, the Peace Innovators program, “planted a seed and gave me the tools to water that seed until it began to bloom,” says Schreyer. She reflects that, “as young leaders [it can be] easy to believe that we need to wait until we have more letters behind our name, or more lived experience, until our voices will be heard. The Peace Innovators program empowers students to take action now, and helps them believe they have the power to initiate change.”
Through Bridges of Hope, 2018-2019 Peace Innovator Olivia Miller engaged her community in discussions about mental health and suicide prevention. Today, Miller is a Community Ambassador at The Umbrella Project, volunteers with The Activist Collab, and speaks for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Beautiful Minds Program. She is currently pursuing a double major in Social Development and Peace and Conflict Studies and a minor in Political Science at the University of Waterloo.
Miller shares that, “after my time in the program, I felt motivated to continue my Bridges of Hope events, creating a more comfortable and accessible environment by including more diverse voices and creating a mental wellness market for easy-access to resources.” She plans to pursue a career in social justice and advocacy, and credits Peace Innovators for allowing her to feel more comfortable using her voice to create change.
The Peace Innovators program allowed me to begin asking difficult questions in a safe, educational environment and that has shaped my ability to start such conversations in my present work. I am eternally grateful for the chance to learn specific strategies to guide my advocacy and work to more effective, legitimate societal change.
Quinn Andres used their time in the 2018-2019 program to strengthen relationships between the Mennonite church and queer community members. To promote more positive affirmation and support for queer people within the Mennonite community, Andres partnered with Pastors in Exile(PiE) to create the “Beyond Binaries” workshop. The event was a resounding success, and may be hosted again in the future when it is safe to gather.
Today, Andres studies at the University of Waterloo, and continues supporting youth as a TREE Workshop Facilitator. They also help lead the Queer, Allied, and Questioning (QuAQ) group at Conrad Grebel University College, and remain connected with PiE. Andres reflects that, after participating in the program, “I feel more confident to advocate for myself and other voices that are often silenced.” For Andres, the biggest strengths of the Peace Innovators program are its focus on design thinking and holistic problem-solving, as well as the emphasis on connecting with people working to address the problems they are passionate about.
Many Peace Innovators participants pursue post-secondary education after completing the program, some even returning to Conrad Grebel University College to study Peace and Conflict Studies or to live in residence. Peace Innovators graduates become lifelong advocates for positive change in their communities. They gain valuable skills for building peace, and can kick-start their careers in the process.If you or know someone who might be interested in this program, visit the Peace Innovators webpage for more information. Applications for 2021-2022 participants will be open from March 1st to April 30th, 2021.