$25K in 25 Days: Day 25: Eric Dawson

I was a pretty angry kid.  Not a get-in-a-lot-of-fights kind of angry, but angry nonetheless.  The world felt unfair to me.  Adults often let me down or were dismissive of my ideas.  I attended a large high school in the Midwest at a time when students with disabilities – students who talked differently or walked differently or spoke differently were no longer being kept in separate classrooms but joining the rest of the school for many of the daily activities – gym, lunch, health class.  And often, because they were different, these students were tormented, made fun of, and bullied.  This made me even angrier.

A group of us organized to change this.  We held workshops and trainings.  We brought in speakers and held fundraisers.  Most importantly, we organized ourselves to intervene when bad things happened in the cafeteria or hallway.  It made a difference.  Not because the principal or teachers made a new rule but because we changed the culture of our school, student to student.  

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When I was 18 I worked with a group of teenagers to help other young people create their own projects to make their schools or neighborhoods safer, kinder, better.  Now, 25 years later, the group – Peace First – has supported young people all over the world to be brave, kind, and collaborative.  And we have learned about how young people can change the world for the better – not someday, but right now – through choices they make every day.

There is a parable which is often credited to the Cherokee people about a grandfather and his grandson.  A child approaches his grandfather who is visibly upset.  “Grandfather,” he asks, “what is wrong?”  “My son,” the grandfather replies, “I feel like I have these two wolves fighting inside of me.  One wolf is vengeful, angry, and violent.  The other wolf is loving, peaceful, and kind.  They are at war inside my spirit.”  The grandson thinks about this for a moment then, turning to his grandfather he asks, “Which of these two wolves do you think will win, grandfather?”  To which the grandfather replies, “Whichever wolf I choose to feed.”

I want you to feed the good in yourselves and in the world

$25K in 25 Days: Day 24: Jasmine Babers

Media for women has gotten a negative reputation. Love GIRLS magazine puts that negativity to rest with its peaceful, loving and powerful message.
— Jasmine Babers

Jasmine created LOVE Girls Magazine, a youth-produced magazine providing a safe community for young women to share their stories, their struggles, and their accomplishments.

At this moment in our country, we need to make sure our young women feel empowered and safe to share their stories and experiences. Please support the work Jasmine is doing today.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 23: Amanda Matos

We are centering young women themselves by recognizing their power.
— Amanda Matos

Very aware of the lack of people who look like her in politics and places of power, Amanda started the WomanHOOD Project, which empowers young women of color in the Bronx to become community leaders. Amanda’s mission to ensure everyone has a voice in decision-making positions has never felt more relevant and urgent. Please support her and the peacemakers pushing for change today.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 22: Grace Wilkerson

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Because of martial arts, we believe young people will be better equipped to give our country a “kick” in the right direction.
— Grace

Acting on her belief that every person has the basic human right to a violence-free life, Grace created Kickin’ Violence in 2013. Kickin’ Violence is a nonprofit that seeks to “empower youth to eradicate violence through education, service, and martial arts.

Grace has accepted the Peace First Challenge, using our brand new peacemaking platform to grow her project and incorporate the tenets of peacemaking: courage, compassion, and collaboration. Check her out here.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 21: Mary-Pat Hector

Love me or hate me, [gun violence] became a conversation in Atlanta.
— Mary-Pat

Tired of the constant gun violence in her community and the country, Mary-Pat started the Just Think Twice campaign, an initiative that uses graphic images to capture the attention of her peers to make them realize the devastating impact of gun use.

Next month, as part of our Duets series, Mary-Pat will be sitting down with former Secretary of Education and Managing Partner of Emerson Collective Arne Duncan in Chicago for a discussion on how young people, right now, are creating strategies for reducing gun violence and building lasting communities of peace.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 20: Online Bullying - It Ends With You.

People should be able to freely do things without the constant fear of someone dragging them and their spirits down.
— @Pandapups1

Peace First Challenge user @Pandapups1 has been facing daily online harassment simply for being a young woman who likes to play video games. Now she is on the Peace First Challenge platform creating a project that builds community through video games, with the aim of ending online bullying.

Like many of our users, @Pandapups1 is looking for support and ideas as she plans her peacemaking project. Check her out on the Peace First Challenge website and help her out!

$25K in 25 Days: Day 19: LA Duets

“Young people are open, they’re imaginative, they’re collaborative, and I think because of technology and communication, they’re more interconnected with each other across the globe. So I feel that empowering young people will allow them to put all their knowledge, their imagination, their passion and everything that they believe into good use. And it will allow them to create a better future for themselves and for the next generation to come.”

-Anousheh Ansari

Duets is a Peace First storytelling platform that pairs leading artists, entrepreneurs, activists and thinkers together with young people engaged in peacemaking work for powerful dialogues that explore the most important issues of our times. These conversations will help us all foster compassionate insights into our biggest problems, imagine new solutions, and build new allies to address our shared concerns.

In our third Duets, Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian-American astronaut, joined Peace First CEO Eric Dawson and her niece Yara Shahidi, star of ABC’s Black-ish, for an inspiring conversation this weekend in Los Angeles. As part our Peace First’s Duets storytelling campaign they discussed the importance of intergenerational conversations like these and what we can be doing, right now, to ensure the young people of our community feel empowered to take on the injustices most important to them. Check out some highlights of the conversation below.

Right now, these conversations feel more essential than ever. We must continue to bring together people of different experiences, different backgrounds, different demographics, to create an environment of compassion and collaboration.

Click here to see our “Duets” with GLSN Founder and Arcus Foundation Executive Director Kevin Jennings & Peace First Winner Brennan Lewis

Click here to see our “Duets” with Secretary of Education John King and Peace First Winner Yasmine Arrington

Please support our work and the work of peacemakers everywhere by giving today.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 18: Jessica Carscadden

I know I felt so safe and not scared when I got my very first bear, so I thought if it could make me not scared, it could help a lot of kids.
— Jessica Carscadden

Knowing that simple comforts, like having a stuffed animal to hold, can go a long way in helping children in frightful situations, Jessica started the We Care Bears Project.

Through Jessica's unique experiences and perspective, she's helped thousands of kids in her community feel loved - let's continue to support the young people like Jessica!

$25K in 25 Days: Day 17: Eli Erlick

Because of my own experiences and knowledge of the community, I dedicated myself to advocacy, determined to end the oppression and marginalization of LGBTQ youth.
— Eli Erlick

In 2011, Eli co-founded Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER), an organization dedicated to improving the educational environment for transgender/gender nonconforming students everywhere.

Now is the time to stand with our courageous young leaders and empower them.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 16: Yara Shahidi

We are not and will not become passive members of our society. I refuse to watch the undoing of centuries of progress. We are Generation Z.
— Yara Shahidi

You may recognize the name - Yara is currently the star of ABC's Black-ish - but it's not just the acting that has us inspired. Yara is using her platform to empower young people everywhere to stand for what they believe, challenge the status quo and continue to push for progress.

Read her statement following the election here.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 15: Chicago

If you read headlines about Chicago this summer, you know that over July 4th Weekend, 82 people were shot, 14 fatally. This has been a very difficult year for many of us; as Dr. Cornel West has observed, “We are in the midst of a cultural crisis where people are ill-equipped to deal with typical human emotions – sadness, despair, rage – in acceptable and humane ways.”

Peace First CEO Eric Dawson was in Chicago this summer speaking to a group of 150 local high school students when he tested Peace First’s theory of how we can improve the world around us:

As I stood in the front of the room, I asked, “How many of you have been personally affected by gun violence in Chicago?”
Every hand was raised.

I asked, “How many of you have ideas on how to solve these problems?”
Almost every hand stayed raised.

I asked, “How many of you have had an adult ask you about your ideas to solve these problems?”
Only about 20% of the hands stayed raised.

I asked, “How many of you have had an adult offer you money for your ideas?”
Not one hand was raised.

Our young people have solutions. They are ready for the Challenge. We just need to give them the space and support.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 14: Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Our Generation is going to be the most impacted by climate change. And so our generation has the most at stake and we have the most power.
— Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl has been pushing back the decisions made by adults for years. He's held our government and the people in charge accountable for their negligence in their care for our environment. And he knows he's not the only want demanding change.

Xiuhtezcatl is calling on all of us to find our passion and use that to stand against injustice. He formed RYSE (Rising Youth for Sustainable Earth) to provide young people with a platform for their voices to be heard and give them the opportunity to take action against climate change NOW.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 13: Yasmine Arrington

Education is truly the gateway to better opportunities. It creates better citizens who are open-minded and actively work towards a more peaceful world.
— Yasmine Arrington

Through her nonprofit ScholarCHIPS (CHildren of Incarcerated ParentS), Yasmine ensures that young people with an incarcerated parent have the opportunity to receive and education and break the cycle of incarceration.

Watch a conversation Yasmine recently had with US Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. on the necessity of civic engagement for young people.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 12: Matthew Kaplan

The approach we have to take is not ‘anti-bullying’, it’s ‘community building’.
— Matthew Kaplan

Building community through compassion is our best chance at moving forward. We must look to young people like Matthew, who is combating bullying in middle school through positive peer pressure and by creating an environment of community. He is asking young people to call out bad behavior, while maintaining the belief the people aren’t bad.

$25K in 25 Days: Day 11: Avalon Theisen

"We have big voices and new ideas. We’re willing to work along side you. We’re willing to speak out. We’re willing to take action and make change.”

Using her deep concern for the well-being of the global environment and her love of frogs, Avalon started Conserve It Forward to empower young people everywhere to stand up and fight for Mother Earth. Now she is using our peacemaking platform to engage with more young people and learn from their vast expertise.

Support peacemakers like Avalon here.

$25K in 25 Days: Peacemaking Story #10: Wei Chen

When we talk about our problems, share our stories, and work for solutions together, we can make change.
— Wei Chen

Wei staged an 8-day student boycott of his school, bringing together a diverse group of students and a demanding a new administration that would not stand for the racial harassment he had faced.

$25K in 25 Days: Peacemaking Story #9: Brennan Lewis

Adults need to understand that young people are never going to be leaders if they are never given agency or a chance to try.
— Brennan Lewis

Unable to find the safe space for LGBTQ youth that they needed, Brennan founded QueerNC, a statewide group that educates, empowers, and builds leadership skills for LGBTQ teens in North Carolina.

$25K in 25 Days: Peacemaking Story #8: Alexis Werner

She said ‘I have the power to change the world.’ And for her to understand that, at 6 years-old, was incredible.
— Alexis Werner

Seeing her step-father’s struggle with PTSD coming home from service prompted Alexis to further understand the disease and provide a healthy outlet for the thousands of returning servicemen through her Victory Gardens and and Seeds of Hope organization.

$25K in 25 Days: Peacemaking Story #7: Kylee McCumber

“In doing this work, I’ve learned that I’m a stronger person than I give myself credit for.”
— Kylee McCumber

When Kylee saw some of her peers struggling, she stood up and started a program to ensure everyone in her community received adequate support; and in doing so, Kylee found how much strength she truly has.

$25K in 25 Days: Peacemaking Story #6: Ryan Traynor

I learned that volunteering creates a spark that ignites a flame of community support and enthusiasm.
— Ryan Traynor

Combining his love of reading with his passion for volunteering, Ryan started Youth for Literacy, a multi-faceted program that uses increasing literacy as a way to combat violence and improve communities.