Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Peace Rally at Northwest Academy of Law

On Thursday, I volunteered at Northwest Academy of Law's Peace Rally. Northwest is a high school located in North St. Louis City. Washington University School of Law has been developing a deep relationship with the high school, and I was asked to help out by a fellow law student. Thursday was my first day visiting the school.

When I walked into the building, I was immediately greeted by several smiling high school students who were eager to help me. I didn't stay inside for long. I was one of the safety volunteers, and I, along with several others, put up barricades in the streets to prevent cars from interfering with the high school march on Riverview.

The Peace Rally begins.
The march was delayed by five, fifteen, then thirty minutes. As we began to wonder if the rally would ever start, suddenly a slowly moving police car appeared on the horizon, with hundreds of kids and community members right behind.

The kids may have been late, but they were ready to march. They shouted slogans involving the buzzwords "responsible," "peace," "resolve," "respect," and, of course, their school name. As this mass of kids passed through the street, people came out of their homes to watch. Firefighters emerged from their station. Drivers who could have been frustrated that they were blocked from using the street smiled when they learned why they had to turn around.

These kids started a neighborhood conversation, one that was full of joy and hope. And one that is desperately needed.

I spoke with some neighbors as the children passed by. When I told them the kids were marching for peace, they were happy and proud, but one also spoke with an urgency subdued by a status quo that has lasted for too long. Just the night before, someone was shooting in the neighborhood, maybe a block or two away from where the kids were marching. Just a handful of days ago, a man was found murdered in a car not too far up the street. One of the children spoke about some of the kids she knew who have died because of teen violence.

This rally was meant to wake up a community--not just those who live around the school, but everyone in St. Louis--and give kids positive, safe options for this summer.

Everyone there was so proud of these kids and the school staff for putting on this event. There are few things more impressive than seeing a group of kids demonstrate leadership and poise in the face of adversity. But the sad truth about St. Louis and many other areas in this country is that so many children live in neighborhoods where their very lives are in jeopardy, where they may have lost a friend or a family member to violence.

It would be a shame for this effort to fade away as just another news piece. That's why our organization will work with the school to offer a few jobs to their high school students as teaching assistants with our summer program. We encourage anyone who can help out to reach out and make a difference for these and so many other kids in St. Louis.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

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