VUHS holds 10th annual Peace One Day gathering

VERGENNES — Vergennes Union High School students on Friday spoke, sang and read poetry at their 10th annual Peace One Day rally to promote harmony at their school and in their community as well as around the world.
VUHS has held a student-led all-school assembly each year since 2005 to celebrate the annual Sept. 21 United Nations International Day of Peace. Last week’s all-school Peace One Day event, held on the VUHS front lawn, was moved to Friday because Sept. 21 fell on a non-school day.
Students also dedicated this year’s gathering to VUHS staff member Lee Shorey, a longtime supporter of Peace One Day at the school. Student Aly Gebo said from the podium that the student Peace One Day committee “didn’t have to think very hard” before picking Shorey and donating money to Heifer International in Shorey’s name.
“She is a kind soul who cares about anyone she meets, and nothing can stand in her way when she sets her mind to something,” Gebo said. “She is outgoing, empathetic, genuine and generous. She gives before she takes.”
Organizers said middle school students sold more than 50 “Peace Pies” and raised more than $600 to donate to Heifer International, which describes itself as a “charity organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities.”  
The theme of the day for organizers was showing a picture of a key on a piece of paper and saying, “The key to unlocking your power to make peace is,” and asking students to finish the sentence. Several students responded throughout the roughly hour-long event.
Vergennes Union Elementary School first-graders opened the program by sharing their responses, including “petting horses, playing with friends, swimming, making friends, writing, reading, getting help” and more.
Those pupils had also put their handprints on the annual VUHS Peace One Day banner the day before. As is an annual tradition, all at the assembly were invited to sign the banner and pledge to act peacefully; VUHS students Emma Gardner and K.C. Ambrose offered that invitation on Friday. The banner will hang at VUES and then at the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union office.
Students also designed two buttons for this past Friday’s event, one of which featured a peace sign and the question, “What Is Your Power?”
On the podium, student Elan Hugo introduced the event by saying that his power is service and shared his story about collecting soccer cleats for a school in Africa.
Student Tia Hunt spoke of the international impact of the U.N. Day of Peace, which the U.N. adopted as an annual Sept. 21 ceasefire after a lobbying effort spearheaded by British documentary filmmaker Jeremy Gilley.
First, Hunt challenged the assembled students, staff members and guests to “think before you speak.” Then she noted that the day has caught the attention of more people around the world, 470 million in 200 countries in 2013 compared to 280 million in 2012.
And, between 1 and 2 percent aware of Peace One Day “behaved more peacefully in their own lives as a result,” Hunt said. “Although this seems like a small percent, that is about 4 to 8 million people.”
Hunt also noted that, for example, on Sept. 21, 2010, 50,000 people in and around Kabul, Afghanistan, were vaccinated against deadly diseases, and since 2007 Peace One Day ceasefires in that country have allowed 4.5 million children to be vaccinated against polio.
Also taking to the podium on Friday were Hunter Smith, who read a slam poem; Gardner, who spoke on awareness of current conflict zones; Emma Husk and Olivia Hawkins, who reflected on 9-11 in a shared piece titled “Not Feeling Safe”; Lt. Col. John Medenwald from the Vermont Army National Guard, who spoke and asked for a moment of silence for the fallen; and members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, who read poems and statements.
The Commodore Jazz Band played at the beginning and end of the assembly and performed a piece in the middle, and Jeb Hodsden, April Ambrose and Gebo also offered music.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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