Students organizing cultural exchange

High school students from the Scattergood Friends School in West Branch, a Baha’i youth organization and five American Indian groups are slated to take part in a cultural peace exchange this weekend at Maharishi School in Fairfield.

The exchange is being organized by members of the Students Creating Peace Network, a group founded by Maharishi School students after the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado. Originally called End School Violence Now, the group expanded its focus and changed its name after Sept. 11, 2001.

Nelina Loiselle, a Maharishi School senior, said members of the group went to a peace exchange at George Washington High School in Denver, Colo., last year, and found that “it was a really good way for kids to get together and talk about peace.”

“A lot of what we’re doing is modeled [after] the Denver peace exchange,” said junior Divindy Grant.

The students will form breakout groups, with participants from each location, to discuss questions such as “What is peace?” and “What does peace mean to you?”

Wes Dearborn, a junior, said the result of the group discussions is that “you really have to think about ways to create peace and really make it a reality instead of trying to push it onto the world” with protests and the like.

Although the Students Creating Peace Network advocates Transcendental Meditation, which is taught at Maharishi School and which advocates say creates peace, students said meditation won’t be the only focus. In fact, the guidelines for breakout group leaders say that “it is OK to talk about meditation, but do not preach it.”

“The students are advocating Transcendental Meditation and the TM-Sidhi program. That’s the technique that they know about and they can talk about from direct experience,” said Lynn Kaplan, the group’s faculty advisor. “But they don’t say ‘this is the only way.'”

Instead, said senior Geoffrey Boothby, participants will be asked “what have you discovered in your lives to create peace?”

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