Calhoun County 4-H program partners with PeaceJam for social justice

Connecting youth to others.

“The specific needs and concerns of the young people of the community are expressions of problems and possibilities that exist for youth throughout our nation, whether their immediate community is urban, suburban or rural.  Therefore, it is a natural process for young people in one community to feel great affinity for their peers in another, and thus it is possible in many instances to address mutual concern in programs of combined action,” as stated in Building Communities From the Inside Out:  A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets  by John P. Kretzmann and John L. Mcknight, ''Northwestern University, The Asset-Based Community Development Institute and Institute for Policy Research. 

The Calhoun County 4-H program has been an affiliate of PeaceJam as a chapter member for eight years as part of the Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana Great Lakes region.   Peacejam is an international education program that highlights leading Nobel Peace Laureates with the goal to inspire a new generation of peacemakers. According to Michigan State University Extension, the students complete a service learning project called Global Call to Action and study a Nobel Laureate each year along with social justice and service learning curricula. This is coupled with in-service training  by Peace Slam for an adult advisor and a team of youth attending the two day annual PeaceJam conference. 

Before going to a PeaceJam conference, the adult advisor works with the young people to introduce them to the PeaceJam Ambassador’s Curriculum, which covers the Laureate’s background, conflict resolution, leadership development, service-learning and key educational concepts.   The young people are then required to create a Global Call to Action project whether it’s a local, national or international project and present it to the Laureate at the PeaceJam conference.

The annual PeaceJam conference offers a forum for hundreds of youth to come together with their adult advisor(s) from different schools, organizations and churches to learn and work together to address ten fundamental issues.  These ten issues that affect everyone are

  1. Securing equal access to water and other natural resources
  2. Ending racism and hate
  3. Halting the spread of global disease
  4. Eliminating extreme poverty
  5. Guaranteeing social justice and human rights for all
  6. Ensuring women’s and children’s rights
  7. Restoring Earth’s environment
  8. Controlling the proliferation of weapons
  9. Breaking the cycle of violence
  10. Investing the true human security

The youth take part in service projects and workshops at the conference pertaining to each topic.

Calhoun County 4-H PeaceJam’s third-year team member DeSherrionte Bridges said, “ I really learn a lot from the Noble Peace Laureates about how they devote their life to making a positive change in other people’s lives and I like representing the 4-H program as a team member as we present our service learning projects at the conferences.”   Another 4-H team member, Darvin Davidson said, “I like working with other youth at the PeaceJam Conference.  I really felt our voices were being heard and we can be a part of the solution to issues that affect all of us.”

The 4-H Program and PeaceJam partnership is an excellent example of connecting young people together to address mutual concerns with combined action.

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