Rocks of Unity™

A Peacemaking Project by Alexa Z.

What is the injustice we are solving?

Rocks of Unity™ is a brand of educational workshops, geared towards individuals of all ages, which affirms diversity as a strength through kindness, acceptance, and unity. We invite people of all backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and social distinctiveness to come together, decorate a rock that expresses their identity, and then turns these creations into permanent art installations. This can be in the form of diverse rock gardens, rock walls, walkways, and more as we help reinforce the values of inclusion, acceptance, and kindness, while rejecting intolerance and hate. With the enactment of Rocks of Unity™, citizens will gain a heightened awareness of these prominent issues and learn how to better understand each other, ultimately building stronger communities.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of intolerance
we will address the characteristics that potentially divide individuals
by hosting Rocks of Unity™ workshops and highlighting that our differences don't divide us. They unite us.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • Enhancing cross-cultural dialogue and co-existence
  • Uniting people both nationally and internationally
  • Stopping the spread of intolerance by making a positive change through kindness, acceptance, and unity

We will increase my / our compassion by...

Continuing to conduct workshops that introduce me to new individuals and their unique qualities and experiences. This will increase my understanding and acceptance of others, which in turn, diminishes intolerance.

How will you show courage?

By continuing to expand Rocks of Unity™ at a national and international scale, I have been determined to stand up against hate and intolerance. Through Rocks of Unity™, I am showing that kindness and acceptance must be our first response against this injustice. I may encounter doubt or negativity along the way; however, that will not deter me from spreading these ideals through my work.

How will you collaborate with others?

In order to spread these ideals effectively, I continue to recruit other young people to join me on this movement. In addition, I enact these workshops to various organizations where I work with a many diverse individuals. Some of these organizations include schools, community organizations, religious affiliated groups, health and fitness centers. These workshops are geared towards individuals of all ages. I have recently launched a spin-off of Rocks of Unity™ called Rocks of Unity™ Rockstars where I am working with celebrities and their publicists. I don't think kindness, acceptance, and unity are restrictive to only people with or without status. I think it's applicable to anyone regardless of that. These celebrities decorate a rock that is mailed to them and then they send it back to me. One celebrity rock is placed seamlessly among the rocks of "normal every day people" in each community garden to again bridge the gap between differences.

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

I will know that I am moving in the right direction when Rocks of Unity™ continues to become an organization known nationally and internationally which people associate with spreading positivity. I will also know that I am moving in the right direction when I can see that ideals such as hate and intolerance are replaced with ideals such as kindness and acceptance. I can measure this through what is portrayed on social media and by being observant as to how others interact with individuals who are different from them.

Key Steps

  • Partner with organizations interested in Rocks of Unity™
  • Begin by conducting an interactive speech which addresses the importance of diversity within that organization
  • Each participant is given a rock which they decorate based on their individual characteristics
  • The participants come together and share the importance of what they put on their rock
  • Their rocks are placed in permanent art installations which reinforce the values of inclusion, acceptance, and kindness, while rejecting intolerance and hate
  • Daily Doses of Kindness postings on three social media platforms in attempt to fill social media with positivity. These posts are then shared by celebrities and everyday people nationally and internationally.

Reflection:

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

This workshop was the biggest workshop I conducted to date. I personally went to each one of the classrooms and spoke to each child about what they decided to put on their rock. The stories that came out of this were powerful. For example, one student decorated her rock and wrote "Auggie Pullman" in the center. I figured she really liked the book/ movie "Wonder." When she explained what she put on her rock, she explained that she feels as though she is the real-life Auggie Pullman. Just like Auggie in Wonder, this student had 5 facial corrective surgeries. Due to these surgeries, she has had a difficult time fitting in socially. For such a young girl, this rock was very profound. It demonstrated even further that intolerance is not just a state-wide issue, not just a national issue, but it is a global issue that needs to be corrected. Through Rocks of Unity, we are using education, advocacy, and art to change the connotation of the word "difference" into a much more positive term.

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

All of the feedback I received from the students, parents, faculty, and staff was very positive. One parent sent me a message after I left saying that this was a program that “truly needed to come to Goodnoe.” All of the children were all to see the differences just within the population of their school. Instead of constructing judgments based on false assumptions, the children were able to learn the importance of dialogue and getting to know someone past their physical appearance. Each student shared their decorated rock with their classmates. The stories that came out of this conversation were powerful, insightful, and heartfelt. Through art and dialogue, students and faculty were able to see that our first response to hate should always be kindness.

How many people were impacted by your project?

1000

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

It was the number of children that participated in the assembly.

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

I spoke with the administration as well as the Character Education committee and Parent Teaching Association prior to the workshop. I also reconnected with these three organizations after.

What did your team learn?

Since I began Rocks of Unity™ one year ago, it has grown tremendously on many different platforms. I began at one school in Buffalo thinking that is where it would stay. However, I could not have been more wrong. I have now taken Rocks of Unity™ to over 2,000 diverse individuals from all over the country. Each day I post a Daily Dose of Kindness on Rocks of Unity™ social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). These posts act as a catalyst to promote positivity on a social media platform which can be filled with such negativity and hate. These posts have been shared by people from all over the world in countries outside the United States. Celebrities and social influencers have also joined in on the movement and shared these posts as well. Through my social media outreach, an elementary school in Newtown, Pennsylvania saw my work and knew they wanted me to come to their school to hold a Rocks of Unity™ workshop right away. The next thing I knew, I was being flown to Goodnoe Elementary School and booked to do school-wide assemblies and workshop instruction. With the money generously donated from Peacefirst, we were able to purchase all the supplies needed for this workshop. This assembly was an amazing experience. I was able to speak to over 1,000 children about the importance of diversity and the acceptance of one’s differences through kindness and unity. All the children absolutely loved the workshops. I had positive and upbeat music playing when they walked in. I was greeted with thousands of singing faces excited to be there. This experience has allowed me to expand Rocks of Unity™ and its outreach to thousands of children (kindergarten- sixth grade) in a city and state I haven’t travelled to in the past. Through this experience and the feedback following the workshop, I learned how important these workshops are in multiple ways. In addition to ending intolerance and hate by spreading kindness and acceptance, these workshops give each individual a voice. Their voice is shown through what they choose to put on their rock. It demonstrates that every person's voice matters which is a very important message to be spread especially in our world's current climate.

What challenges did your team overcome?

One challenge that I had to overcome was pricing the materials for Goodnoe Elementary. I did send them the materials list that I use. I didn't think it was going to be an issue even if they were in a different state than where I have conducted the previous workshops. However, it was a bigger issue than I thought. The prices in their area were more expensive than in mine. We had to figure out how to account for the price differences. It was due to the Peacefirst grant that I was given that made up for the difference in the prices for the materials. I am truly thankful for that.

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

Recently, I was a guest on Harry Connick Jr's talk show (HARRY). As a result, I was given a lot of exposure. Many organizations have asked me how to conduct a Rocks of Unity workshop in their area or at their organization. I have worked with these organizations to make this possible. We have been communicating via phone and via email to do so.

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

When you have a vision for a peacemaking project, it may not seem easy at first. There will be people who will doubt your potential to really get it off the ground. There will also be people who support you undoubtedly whether you succeed or not. Those are the people you need to have within your circle. Sometimes they know you better than you know yourself and your own potential. They are the ones that will guide you along the way to help you grow your peacemaking project to its fullest potential.

Our Updates:

Rocks of Unity Reflection- Goodnoe Elementary

Alexa Z. 30 December 2017 22:42                 Since I began Rocks of Unity™ less than one year ago, it has grown tremendously on many different platforms. I began at one school in Buffalo thinking that is where it would stay. However, I could not have been more wrong. I have now taken Rocks of Unity™ to over 2,000 diverse individuals from all over the country. Each day I post a Daily Dose of Kindness on Rocks of Unity™ social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). These posts act as a catalyst to promote positivity on a social media platform which can be filled with such negativity and hate. These posts have been shared by people from all over the world in countries outside the United States. Celebrities and social influencers have also joined in on the movement and shared these posts as well.

 

            Through my social media outreach, an elementary school in Newtown, Pennsylvania saw my work and knew they wanted me to come to their school to hold a Rocks of Unity™ workshop right away. The next thing I knew, I was being flown to Goodnoe Elementary School and booked to do school-wide assemblies and workshop instruction. With the money generously donated from Peacefirst, we were able to purchase all the supplies needed for this workshop.

 

            This assembly was an amazing experience. I was able to speak to over 1,000 children about the importance of diversity and the acceptance of one’s differences through kindness and unity. All the children absolutely loved the workshops. I had positive and upbeat music playing when they walked in. I was greeted with thousands of singing faces excited to be there. This experience has allowed me to expand Rocks of Unity™ and its outreach to thousands of children (kindergarten- sixth grade) in a city and state I haven’t travelled to in the past.

 

            All of the feedback I received from the students, parents, faculty, and staff was very positive. One parent sent me a message after I left saying that this was a program that “truly needed to come to Goodnoe.” All of the children were all to see the differences just within the population of their school. Instead of constructing judgments based on false assumptions, the children were able to learn the importance of dialogue and getting to know someone past their physical appearance. Each student shared their decorated rock with their classmates. The stories that came out of this conversation were powerful, insightful, and heartfelt. Through art and dialogue, students and faculty were able to see that our first response to hate should always be kindness.

 

            Overall, this was an amazing experience and truly one I will never forget. I am looking forward to travelling out of state more often to conduct these workshops in new locations.  I would like to personally thank Peacefirst for graciously funding the supplies for these workshops. I would also like to thank Goodnoe Elementary for all of their support and interest in Rocks of Unity™. As the slogan for Rocks of Unity™ always says, “Our differences don’t divide us. They unite us. Kindness is universal and is what unites these differences. In our world today, hate may be loud. However, kindness will always reign louder.

 

 

Comments:

Akila S.
8 June 2018 10:49

Hi Alexa! 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!

Here is a link to your reflection: https://www.peacefirst.org/projects/rocks-unitytm/dashboard/reflection

Akila  

KelseyPF T.
15 November 2017 12:00

Congratulations! We have approved your mini-grant application and are delighted to support your ongoing work to create tolerance and celebrate difference. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

You've done a wonderful job articulating your project plan and how it will address the injustice and the values of courage, compassion, and collaboration are visible in your plan -- I appreciate your emphasis on how conducting the workshops will also increase your own understanding and acceptance of others as well as impacting the workshop participants - recognizing our own journey is an important part of being a reflective practitioner.

One thing I'd encourage you to think about is thinking about shorter term indicators. I love how passionate you are about helping to create significant change, but in addition to looking to a future where people are more kind and accepting on and offline, think about how you can measure your impact in the short term. How can you measure the impact of your work in the next three months and with the materials you will acquire with this particular mini-grant funding? How do you know each individual workshop makes a difference in the lives of those who participate?

Keep up your amazing work and let us know how we can help!  

Fish S.
26 September 2017 12:07

Hey, this is really awesome! It's amazing to see the ways in which you're working to bring people together, affirm their identities, and reject intolerance. That's so important!

How can we help? Are there any ways that we can support you in this important work?

One thing that would be really neat is if you took a minute to write a story about your project and what you've learned so far!
https://www.peacefirst.org/stories