If Muskegon Heights teenagers can keep a “peace pledge” for 40 days, Superintendent of Schools Alena Zachery-Ross thinks a peaceful lifestyle may become a habit.
“40 days is a start,” she says. “They say anything you want to become a habit you have to do at least 30 days in a row. The hope is this 40 days will transition to year-round peace.”
Kit Cummings, the creator of the “Power of Peace Project” was at Muskegon Heights Academy High School Thursday night with some of the city’s young participants in the program. He says the 40 day peace pledge worked so well to reduce violence in prisons, he developed a version for schools and communities.
“We have backed it up to kids in school to try to prevent them from going to prison,” he explains.
“The Power of Peace Project was an idea that became an experiment that led to a program that now has evolved into a movement. It’s a peace movement. Participants get a few days training, then are issued a journal. Inside are quotes from famous peacemakers like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa, along with daily assignments or action challenges."
Participants are instructed to show someone respect, eat lunch with someone who doesn’t look like you and resolve a difference peacefully.
“When it was introduced to me the Power of Peace Project blew me away, swept me off my feet,” says Marcus Pollard, Jr. “I was tired of doing the same old stuff. Tired of making the same mistakes.”
“We are built for peace,” says Cummings. “We were born in peace. Nobody was born a racist. Nobody was born to hate. Nobody was born violent. We learned it, and if we can learn it, we can unlearn it.”