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Tracy Frank, Published April 08 2012

Local teens work for peace

Nonprofit profile

What: PeaceJam team

Run through: RSVP Metro Youth Partnership

Contact: Jessica Arneson at: Jessica.Arneson.1@ndsu.edu or (701) 231-5552

Online: www.peacejam.org, www.rsvpnorthdakota.org

FARGO – Some area teens are meeting weekly to find out how they can make their communities more peaceful places.

Yajua Kiromba, a Fargo 11th grader, said he hopes to change people’s lives and attitudes and make peace in school.

Erica Schmid, a West Fargo 9th grader, said being part of the group has already changed her.

“It’s helped me grow as a person in the ways I treat people and how I lead people in groups in different situations,” she said.

The youth make up the local PeaceJam team, which started in October. PeaceJam is a worldwide youth leadership program that calls on Nobel Peace Prize winners to inspire youth to work for peace and change the world.

“My goal for the group is for everyone to be a better leader and to teach other people to be better leaders so we’ll have more youth leaders in the Fargo-Moorhead area,” said Riley Arneson, a Casselton 8th grader.

The local team meets weekly to work on projects for peace. Their focus this year has been on social justice and human rights for all as well as teen dating violence and breaking cycles of violence.

“We’ve learned a lot since we started,” Kiromba said.

The group visited the Cass County Jail and the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo for a community assessment of violence and peace.

“There’s a lot of domestic violence happening here in Fargo, and a lot of the reasons people are in the Cass County Jail are for domestic violence,” Arneson said. “I was shocked. I didn’t realize that there was that much happening in the Fargo-Moorhead area.”

The group decided to do some work to bring awareness to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, so they made a collage about relationships that start out good, turn violent, and then end when the victim gets help.

They will perform and record a skit to go along with the collage and it will be shown at area schools.

“My goal is for our voices to be heard and that people will join us in fighting violence,” said Marie Kehson, a Fargo 10th grader.

Jessica Arneson, Riley Arneson’s mom and Metro Youth Partnership Coordinator, is the group’s leader.

“We don’t take a lot of deliberate and intentional time to think about peace,” she said.

The group hopes their banners and signs will help people do just that.

“Peace is an action. You have to create peace,” Jessica Arneson said. “It doesn’t’ mean that you’re just not being violent. To be a peace maker, you have to do something.”

The teens will also take part in the PeaceJam Leadership Conference & National Service-Learning Conference, which is Wednesday through Saturday in Minneapolis.

While there, they will present what they have been doing to 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi. They will also attend leadership workshops and participate in a service-learning project at the Mall of America.

They will also participate in the “Keeper of the Flame World Cabaret,” a dinner and show celebrating the cultures of youth in the Fargo-Moorhead community.

The event is at 6 p.m. April 29 at the North Dakota State University Alumni Center. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by contacting Jessica Arneson at 701-231-5552 or Jessica.Arneson.1@ndsu.edu.

Arneson found youth for the group by emailing counselors at area schools.

“I said I was looking for kids who were kind, curious, creative, and cooperative,” she said. “I got a wonderful, wonderful team.”