A Peacemaking Project by Shahrzad R.

What is the injustice we are solving?

U-Lead Athens is a local organization that spans across the Athens area to provide educational and financial support to high school students of varying immigration status. U-Lead provides assistance with tutoring, SAT prep, and navigating the college application process. U-Lead has various fundraising projects to alleviate the academic expenses students face when pursuing a post-secondary degree. DREAMfest, a student-led art and music festival, is our most anticipated event of the year. All the money raised from the event will benefit U-Lead students who are pursuing a post secondary education. Georgia is considered a locked out state: un(der)documented students do not receive any federal or state financial assistance and must rely on private sources to fund their education. Because most scholarships require recipients to be citizens, funding necessary for school are all but unattainable. These scholarships will help students cover increasing tuition and living costs. U-Lead students and allies from Clarke Central, Cedar Shoals, and North Oconee have come together once again to organize this year's DREAMfest.The festival will have a silent auction, art, children’s activities, speakers sharing their personal stories, and local performers including musicians and trapeze artists. There will be t-shirts available for purchase.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of Un(der)documented students being banned from attending the most prestigious schools in Georgia
we will address The xenophobia that currently exists
by Educating the Georgia community on the value of immigrants and the importance that they receive equal access to education.

Our Project Plan:


  • to raise awareness of the issue
  • to encourage activisim

We will increase my / our compassion by...

Allowing students to share personal stories of their immigration journey, educational challenges, and dreams for the future.

How will you show courage?

An un(der)documented student who willingly tells his/her story to the community is taking a risk, facing danger, and therefore showing courage.

How will you collaborate with others?

DREAMfest has a group of organizers that mostly include high school seniors. Each member of the executive community is responsible for his/her own sub-committee. The secondary group of organizers are members of the community who eventually express interest in one of the sub-committees. These groups then work together to plan different parts of the event, and they come together and share their progress in weekly meetings.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

The goal of the project is to encourage the Athens community to attend the event. Students joining the committees, sharing and promoting the event on social media, and increasing word of mouth are all methods to ensure that we are moving in the right direction.

Key Steps

  • Designing and ordering t-shirts, reserving a space for the event, receiving food donations, applying for grants, and having guaranteed musical acts are amongst the main steps.


How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

We all came together as a team and learnt to stand up as one. We truly understood the value of the opinions we were affecting and therefore saw ourselves responsible to educate the crowd correctly. That required for the speaking team to add in dates, exact numbers and data to their speeches, which deepened our understanding of un(der)documentation as a course of history.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

A noticeable number of people reached out to our students who spoke and talked about how the speeches given at DREAMfest has affected their understanding of the people around them. In addition, we had the younger generation that passed the personal stories to their classrooms and family members as a way to spread the importance of defeating this injustice.

How many people were impacted by your project?


Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

The event is open to the public therefore it is hard to predict the number of people attending. However, polls on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter helped us with the number of people we were expecting.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

My team was required to do a mandatory research on the history of un(der)documentation. We were divided into different groups each taking on a different subject, including age groups, universities, laws and regulations, and important politicians/organizers involved.

What did your team learn?

My team definitely upgraded the event this year. We included many historical facts and connected them to current events in order to present the overall challenges of immigration to the audience we were impacting. As a team, we also learned to cope under stressful circumstances and cope to work with each other with patience.

What challenges did your team overcome?

The most difficult challenge was time. We were very short on time as the team came together very late. We had to change the date at one point and work very hard to finish everything. My team had multiple extra meetings and invited extra friends to finish all the needed arrangements.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

Our team was divided based on responsibilities. The older members were the ones in charge of each category, such as t-shirts, place, music, speakers, and food. The younger members would choose a committee and help as they desired. We heavily relied on social media to carry out the project.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

Stay strong. It can be very stressful and you will be under a lot of pressure but think about the result and that last moment of relief when your event goes up successfully. Be patient. Not everyone will try as hard as you and you might have to take on other people's responsibilities, but you will learn how to be a true leader. Be proud. You are doing something amazing to impact your community. I, along with the DREAMfest community are very proud of you already!


Adrian B.
22 February 2018 9:59

Hi Shahrzad!

Thanks for posting this--we love the work that you're doing! I'm wondering if this is an update or an additional video you were hoping to post on your main project page? We don't want anyone to get confused about where to go, so if you can keep it all under one "project," that will help it be clear. Let me know if you have any questions about how to do this! :) Adrian

PeaceFirst A.
23 February 2018 9:15

Hi Shahrzad!

Thanks again so much for posting this project.

As part of the Peace First project-making process, we give formal feedback on your compassionate insight. Once your insight is all set, then you can move forward with your mini-grant application if you need funds to help move your idea into action!

I think the root cause you have identified ("The xenophobia that currently exists") is really strong and goes deep into the issue. I also think that the action you want to implement is really powerful and can help address this injustice.

Something that I think could help make your project stronger is making a little bit more clear what your goals are in a way that they can be measured and that they are time-bound so that you can then decide if the project got where you wanted it to go. We have a tool that can help you with that process here: https://www.peacefirst.org/resource/plan-1-smart-goals

I look forward to seeing your project in action and to seeing how we can help you!


Kelsey T.
2 March 2018 10:01

Hi Shahrzad! Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

This is an incredible project -- I am so excited to hear how DREAMfest goes this year! In particular, your compassionate insight is really strong -- you've done a wonderful job of identifying one of the core reasons for this injustice and your solution of educating the community on the value of immigrants and importance of their educational opportunities directly responds to this. Your project is very much rooted in compassion and I think the plan to have un(der)documented students involved in this who are willing to stand up with courage to tell their stories to the community is really important -- it is only through understanding the humanity of these students that the broader xenophobia can be dismantled -- and personal storytelling can go a long way in doing this. I love the idea of using a fun and engaging festival -- with art, activities, speakers, music, etc. as a way of engaging with people.

Things to Consider:
Although I think you are exhibiting incredible courage with this project, I think you could share more about this -- it is AMAZINGLY courageous for un(der)documented students to speak up, as you mentioned, but I think it also takes courage for the allies who are involved to stand up for what is right, despite the xenophobia surrounding them. I also love that you are collaborating so well as a group of high school students -- but I'd love to hear more about other groups you are collaborating with, or encourage you to collaborate more with the broader community if you aren't already -- your solution depends on changing attitudes in the wider community, so I think in the long term it will be important to involve the wider community in the solution. How could you bring local businesses and other community groups into the planning or implementation of the festival? Finally, I'd encourage you to get more strategic about measuring if you are moving in the right directions. Check out the SMART goals tool Raul mentioned for help in this. Since your project has such wonderful potential, I'd encourage you to think both about how you can know you are moving in the right direction AS you plan the event, and any ways you might be able to begin to measure the impact of the event. So excited to hear more and see photos etc. from DREAMfest! Thanks for what you are doing and keep up the great work.

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!

Adrian B.
8 June 2018 13:43

Hi Shahrzad!

We're checking in because you haven't submitted your reflection yet. Reflections were due on May 31 as a part of your mini-grant award. Please submit your reflection as soon as you can. We're looking forward to hearing about how your project went!