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Wittenberg Students Embrace Leadership Roles At Annual Peace Camp

July 1, 2010  
 Filed in Headlines

Brad McKinley '11 listens to a guest speaker with his Peace Camp students.

Springfield, Ohio - More than 230 children ages 4 to 12 gained a greater appreciation for one another and how to resolve interpersonal conflicts at the Springfield Peace Center’s annual Peace Camp at Snowhill Elementary School, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Wittenberg University students intent on making a difference.

Alaina Engdahl, class of 2013 from Columbus, Ohio, Parker Neff, class of 2011 from Prospect, Ky., James Dotson, class of 2011 from Bexley, Ohio, and Brad McKinley, class of 2011 from Hilliard, Ohio, all volunteered as teachers at the camp, which ran from June 14-18. They may have been instructors at the camp, which has offered a wide range of activities aimed at helping children solve problems peacefully, conserve the planet’s resources and appreciate the differences in people since it was founded in 1986, but they were enriched by the experience as well.

“It was awesome to be able to apply what I’ve learned as an early childhood education major into practice,” McKinley said. “A memory that will last with me forever is a lesson about sportsmanship and being responsible for what you say and what you do that I created to teach the students. When I got in front of the class they all were so excited to listen and participate in what I had to teach and say.”

A three-time All-North Coast Athletic Conference linebacker for the Wittenberg football team, McKinley taught children in the pre-kindergarten class and quickly gained a following with his energy and enthusiasm. Similarly, Dotson was a hit with the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders after he taught a lesson on differences in people using a rugby demonstration – appropriate imagery considering Dotson’s participation in Wittenberg’s club rugby program.

Neff became “famous,” according to Peace Camp Director Nanci Keller, after he led his third-grade class in a performance during the annual Thursday night picnic. In completing his university-required community service project, Neff reinforced several camp lessons by orchestrating a skit in which he and the children chanted and marched. Engdahl previously completed a community service project at the Peace Center, but she worked with the fifth- and sixth-grade classes in preparation for an upcoming trip to Ireland, where she hopes to work on similar types of peace initiatives.

The theme for Peace Camp 2010 was “All Aboard For Peace.” All of the teachers in the camp were volunteers, and the participants attended free of charge. Taught primarily through cooperative games and art projects, the children also listened to guest speakers. Neff said organizers were “extremely welcoming and grateful for anything and everything” the Wittenberg students contributed, including the vital tasks of setting up the classrooms and moving boxes throughout the week.

“The students, and especially the volunteers, were all so thankful for having Wittenberg students give up some of their time to help others in such a positive way,” McKinley said. “The entire week I felt a sense of accomplishment. I knew that the students and I were being empowered with peaceful resolutions and non-violent approaches to problem-solving.

“What the students, and even myself, gained from Peace Camp will last with us our entire lives and have more of an impact than we will ever truly know.”

According to Director Nanci Keller, the Peace Center was founded by Wittenberg Professor Emeritus of Education Gil Ware, who worked closely with other professors and community members who hoped to end violence in Springfield in the 1980s. The center continues to operate out of office space on the Wittenberg campus, and dozens of university faculty and staff members have served on the organization’s board. Currently, Associate Professor of Art Scott Dooley, Associate Professor of Languages David Barry and Professor Emeritus of History Charles Chatfield are board members.

The Peace Center offers a variety of programming throughout the year, including a parent/caregiver group taught by Academic Department Assistant for Sociology and Geography Peggy Hanna, a youth leadership club and an Alternatives To Violence program in the schools and at Springfield Metropolitan Housing sites.

Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Marshall Gorby, Springfield News-Sun

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