By Haley Cafarella | Correspondent
A service project designed by a team of 30 Mater Dei Prep students was among 10 worldwide recently highlighted during the United Nations’ International Day of Peace Conference. The Middletown high school’s Education Tool Kit “honors the spirit where young people can build solidarity with our educational communities, connecting them with the refugee and migrant populations,” noted student Elizabeth Sheridan, a member of the school’s Emerging Global Leaders Program. The conference theme, “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety, and Dignity for ALL,” focused upon engaging and mobilizing people worldwide to show support for refugees and migrants.
Sheridan and fellow students Karen Nortz, Madison Ducsai and Katelyn Grano presented the tool kit to the U.N. General Assembly Spet. 15. Designed for those without access to education due to war and terrorism, the kit consisted of both a digital component and a physical portion that includes sending school supplies to the refugees in pizza boxes, so they can have tools of learning even when their education is being halted.
The digital component is a website, prep4peace.org, created by Mater Dei then-freshman Joseph Stanton which consists of interactive discussion boards, mentoring programs and opportunities for the refugee students to be helped by their peers. Lesson plans on science, math and English as a second language can be emailed by teachers to firstname.lastname@example.org with the appropriate grade level, K-12, noted.
According to Mater Dei Prep’s website, the Emerging Global Leaders Program is “a dynamic and interactive program designed to equip students with the ‘tools’ to be the change they want to see in the world.” Member students will participate in youth forums at the United Nations headquarters in New York, speak at subcommittee meetings and attend civil rights conferences with the goal of becoming a global citizen.
“The Education Tool Kit actually came about because we attended an International Day of Peace subcommittee meeting regarding what role we can play in helping the refugees around the world,” said George Anthony, Emerging Global Leaders coordinator and United Nations NGO Pathway to Peace Representative. Anthony, Mater Dei Pre art teacher, Laura Mandile, and St. Mary Parish, Middletown, Deacon Marty McMahon accompanied the students to New York.
The goal of the project is to get education back to these refugees through technological means until the second phase, physical school supplies, occurs. The program is also trying to reach out to other schools so that students can feel like they are playing a role in helping the refugees. Mater Dei students had the opportunity to engage with students from the U.N. Consulate in Bogota, Colombia, to discuss the end of their 50-year civil war. In addition, the students took part in the ringing of the Peace Bell ritual; performed each year at the conference, the bell is made from melted-down bullets and metals from past wars to symbolize peace.
For more information, visit materdeiprep.org.