For Immediate Release: March 14, 2006
Contact: Marsha Mullan
Swarthmore Student Organizing for Nonviolence in Schools
Peace Week Scheduled at Swarthmore and Other Campuses March 31-April 7
Brandon Lee Wolff was tired of hearing news about school shootings and other youth violence. So Wolff, then a 14-year-old student at Council Rock High School in Bucks County, Pa., decided to take action.
Five years later, Wolff's SAVE R US (Students Against Violence Everywhere Are Us) is a growing national organization on high school and college campuses, with its annual Peace Week scheduled to run March 31-April 7 at Swarthmore College, where Wolff is now a sophomore. Peace Week is also taking place the same week at Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges as well as at high schools across Bucks County.
"I was first inspired to get involved as a result of the tragedy at Columbine High School," Wolff recalls. "Then in the spring of 2001, when there was a string of school shootings across America, when each day of the week seemed to bring news of another shooting at another school in another state, I knew I had to take action. I could not believe that kids my age were taking the lives of other kids my age, and I wanted to do something proactive to prevent the violence from happening in my school and community."
Thus began Wolff's efforts to form SAVE R US and to organize a two-day Peace Festival that took place at Council Rock High School in the fall of 2001. The Peace Festival grew into Peace Week as Wolff continued to develop and expand his anti-violence campaign over the rest of his high school career. The project's growth has continued since Wolff's enrollment at Swarthmore in the fall of 2004.
In addition to the annual Peace Week, SAVE R US runs a "Peacemakers" program that sends trained high school students into elementary schools to conduct programs aimed at fostering diversity and working against bullying and violence. Wolff's organization also offers "Unity Cafes," which bring together students to hear guest speakers and undertake hands-on projects such as painting peace murals.
SAVE R US has recently established programs at five Philadelphia-area high schools, and efforts are underway to bring Peacemakers to schools in Chester, Pa. Wolff's work has also taken on an international dimension since his participation in the World Youth Centre in Toronto in 2004. There, he became the only American out of 15 participants to have his social change project chosen to receive backing, primarily in the form of mentoring from experts in the field, for international expansion. Since then, Wolff has been working to found the group's first international chapter, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
"Both on the college and high school campuses, the aim of Peace Week is to promote awareness about issues of bullying and violence," says Wolff, who plans to major in political science and sociology/anthropology. "Through Peace Week and the other programs, we hope to educate the youth of today so that we will have a less violent society in the future."
At Swarthmore this year, Peace Week will consist of speakers, a jamboree featuring student music and dance groups, panels on topics ranging from nonviolent resistance to meditation, and a peace walk. For more details, see the SAVE R US web site at www.saverusinternational.org.