Massachusetts Peace Action has focused on developing young leaders since 2014. We do this through our Student Organizing Program, which identifies future student peace leaders and supports them in establishing college, university and high school student chapters. Like MAPA’s working groups, each chapter picks an issue of interest and then promotes a peaceful US response through activist and educational events on campus. These groups are giving the peace movement a voice on campuses across Massachusetts. Moreover, each organizer becomes an invested member of the peace community.
A sustainable peace movement requires youth involvement. Without it, we risk irrelevance. Although most youth are strongly pro-peace, there remains a disconnect between our movement and the youth population. Our Student Organizing Program counteracts this disconnect while bringing valuable and passionate voices to the peace movement.
Seed money came from the Steven Brion-Meisels Youth Fellowship, a fund created by our generous donors to support youth development in memory of our former board chair. The Student Organizing Program has made enormous strides over the past two years. Following in the footsteps of Peace Action New York State, we reach out to schools through career sites, professors and direct appeals, looking for students who are passionate about the peace movement and are interested in taking on a leadership position. Once a student organizer (SO) has been selected, he or she begins to work towards starting a campus-recognized Peace Action club.
As student outreach coordinator, I initiate all recruitment and I provide our SOs with continuous support. I am passionate about the peace movement, have a background teaching college students, and an advanced degree in literature with a focus on Islamic studies. I support each SO through weekly meetings, a student outreach manual, handouts and graphic design support, and consistent email support.
Our Student Organizers have been gaining continuous momentum over the past year.
We have gone from having one fledgling student chapter to having five student organizers.
Harvard Peace Action and Holy Cross Peace Action were both active chapters in the Fall 2015 semester and both are poised for recognition this spring as official campus clubs.
Harvard Peace Action focuses on nuclear disarmament, in particular the Don’t Bank on the Bomb! Campaign, which challenges university investments that support nuclear weapons production. HPA sponsored physicist Max Tegmark for an exciting talk and question session in November.
With a focus on Middle Eastern issues, Holy Cross Peace Action hosted a documentary screening and discussion program and a lunchtime roundtable.
Two new SO’s are starting work in Spring 2016, one at UMass Lowell and one at Emmanuel College. UMass Lowell’s organizer is in communication with a graduate student peace group and has already begun developing useful contacts and garnering interest. Emmanuel’s SO is committed to challenging Islamophobia and is excited to get the conversations rolling on her campus.
Alongside our college students, two high school organizers in Newton have been hard at work. Newton South Peace Action is in the middle of final requirements for official recognition, having already found a faculty advisor and fellow interested students. Jenny Horsburgh, an organizer at Newton North, has been hosting informal meetings with her classmates and bringing them to MAPA events. A poised 16-year old, Jenny chaired a panel in front of 250 people at our “Building Sustainable Security” conference in November 2015, got her photo in the Boston Globe at our vigil on December 10 (page 5), and has recently joined our board as a student representative.
We are committed to continuing to grow our Student Organizing Program. We welcome applications from student activists and donations to support the work (please write “Steven Brion-Meisels Fellowship” on the memo line).