**This is the first in a series of stories and testimonials from PSI member schools about the impact we are having around the world. Stay tuned here for new stories as they are released! If you are interested in submitting a testimonial, please contact us.**
Leary’s Brook Junior High School, in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, has been a member of Peaceful Schools International since April 2002. This time in our school history proved to be quite a challenge for the Leary’s Brook school community as it saw school reform move from a denominational school system to neighbourhood schools. The year prior to its inaugural membership in PSI, Leary’s Brook received students from 14 separate feeder schools. Building community was key to the school’s success, and membership in PSI proved to be the catalyst for the school in establishing an ethos of collaboration, caring and respect for all.
It was apparent in reviewing the membership criteria for PSI that this organization already had a vision for schools which was right in line with what we aspired to be. The decision to embark upon the Peaceful Schools journey was our next step forward.
In reflecting on the journey thus far, our identity as a Peaceful School affords Leary’s Brook a focus to move into the 21st century with a purpose in mind for each person in the community. We continue to adopt a collaborative approach to school-based decision making and provide curricular and extracurricular peace education activities for our students. Teaching methods that stress participation, cooperation, problem solving and respect for differences are first and foremost. Student and community-centered conflict resolution strategies are utilized and we continue to maintain exemplary records in community service projects. Our school is the leading contributor to food banks in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and has been a top contributor to World Vision in the Atlantic Provinces.
Our staff members continue to avail of opportunities for professional development focused on creating a culture of peace and aspire to the famous words of Dr. Hiam Ginnot, “The essence of discipline is finding effective alternatives to punishment.” Students in our school learn about Respect.4 and showing respect for self, others, learning and the environment.
Teaching peace and character education remain our focus through in-class and extracurricular initiatives. We have an active Student Leadership Team which serves to focus our service learning projects. Our provincial health curriculum has been infused with a program to teach our students about healthy living and healthy relationship building. Varying clubs and support groups are reflections of a peaceful schools focus including the newly formed Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), Peer Mediation Group as well as the Brook Animal Rights Klub (BARK).
Leary’s Brook recently held a first of many Diversity Days where the focus was on the customs and traditions of indigenous peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our school offers an extracurricular human rights course which is co-ordinated through the Asper Foundation. This year 45 of our grade 9 students will complete a nine-week Holocaust and Human Rights Awareness Program which will be followed by a trip to Washington DC to visit the Holocaust museum. One of our most cherished student awards in the Golden Heart Award which is awarded annually to a grade nine student who has significantly contributed to the school’s community service learning projects and who has consistently demonstrated the qualities associated with good character development.
Community building through creating partnerships with local police as well as businesses and municipal and provincial government and NGO’s are ongoing. Leary’s Brook is quite proud of the growing group of parent volunteers and a Breakfast Program which serves close to 200 students each day. Parent sessions are held in conjunction with our community partners on topics which range from internet and drug awareness to bullying prevention. These parent sessions are always well attended and well received by our parents.
Leary’s Brook continues on the journey to peace with enthusiasm and pride. This journey is guided and nurtured through our involvement with Peaceful schools International which has afforded us our identity as a peaceful school and provided networking among all peaceful schools internationally.