By: Nanci Roman, College Counsellor in the College and Career Information Center
Like many of the Life Academy students, I too was born and raised in a community that has normalized violence for the sake of survival. I am used to the lock downs, the drive bys, gangs, police brutality, the loss of life, and the systemic constraints and feelings of despair that inequalities produce on a daily basis.
As I reflected during my fast, endless thoughts came to my mind. I thought about my own best friend who is incarcerated, how gangs have affected my own family and of all of the young people I see on the streets when I drive to and from work. I also thought about Marco Cassilla’s viewing and Luis’s funeral. I couldn’t help but to feel angry, sad and angry again. I thought about the families, especially the mothers and fathers who often ask why, why they have to bury their own children. As hard as the reality is, I think it is important that we move beyond the emotion.
Witnessing the student led Season of Peace Building and the Life Academy community as a whole has taught me that normalizing violence is not survival and that living by surviving, is not living at all. We deserve more; we should fight for more; and, although we may not be able to stop violence, “we can build peace.”
But, how can we build peace?
I personally think that violence is a reaction to issues. Due to the issues that cause violence being so many and different, our approaches to Peace need to be just as many and dynamic in order to address the multiple layers of violence. We need community organizers, educators, researchers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, politicians, moms, dads and even brothers and sisters to work together in building structures that will help people stay away from committing and being victims of violence.
Personally, I love being the college counselor at Life Academy. I love the students, community, and most of all I love that I get to help youth access something that I know will change their lives. I stay late at work, work on the weekends and edit college and scholarship applications until the wee hours of the day because I believe in the power of education. I believe that education can change these students’ lives just like it has changed mine. I believe education can prevent violence, which is why the fact that the Season of Peace Building is happening at a school is so powerful.
Therefore, the “I statement” I chose to focus on during my fast was about committing myself to building peace. While I had every opportunity to sneak in at snack, especially at night when no one could see me, I remained firm and decided to ignore the sounds of my belly and the headache of hunger because that night I felt part of something bigger, something more important, something powerful.
Edited By: Eva Oliver, Life Academy Teacher