CAPE ELIZABETH — Most school clubs and organizations involve practicing a hobby or developing a fun skill.
For Cape Elizabeth High School senior Stephen Bennett and the other 20 or so students in PeaceJam, it involves spreading the message of peace, developing anti-bullying initiatives, and bringing leadership speakers to the school.
PeaceJam is an international organization where Nobel laureates help young people bring about change through service projects. Bennett started the CEHS group last year.
“I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done yet and something with bullying prevention,” Bennett said.
Bennett said most PeaceJam groups he’s heard of have done projects involving the environment, but he wanted to do something that could help people in the local school district.
Working with other students in the group, Bennett developed and ran a bullying prevention program for Cape Elizabeth eighth-graders. He worked with the students in their school advisory groups and had them work on different activities and then talk about them.
“I thought it was effective because it was coming from peers rather than adults,” he said.
Bennett said he wants young people to understand the effect bullying can have on another person.
“Sometimes what starts as teasing ends as suicide,” he said.
Bennett said bullying is an issue everywhere, including Cape Elizabeth, even if people don’t always realize it.
“Sometimes we may not feel like we are affected by these problems, but they’re all around us,” he said.
Bennett, who completed PeaceJam’s anti-bullying prevention training program with other CEHS students, said this year he wants to expand the program to seventh-graders and do programs in the spring and fall. He said he wants the program to carry on after he graduates and eventually be in place for all middle and elementary school students.
CEHS’s PeaceJam group is also working on other projects, and is bringing a speaker to town on Monday. Paul K. Chappell, the peace leadership director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in California, will be giving a lecture called “Why World Peace Is Possible”on Oct. 26 in the high school auditorium.
“He’s really a dynamic speaker,” Bennett said.
The free event starts at 7 p.m. and is open to the general public. Bennett said he thinks Cape Elizabeth will really enjoy the talk.
“I think they’ll learn more about peace as a whole,” he said. “World peace seems so distant, but practicing peace and kindness can make a difference.”
Bennett said Chappell’s talk will be especially interesting to students because he speaks and presents himself in an engaging way.
“Some peace speakers don’t always appeal to young adults as much as adults, but I think Mr. Chappell gets that down,” Bennett said.
Chappell, who served in Iraq, has been giving peace leadership talks and leading workshops since returning from active duty in 2009.
Bennett and the others in CEHS’s PeaceJam group have been attending workshops at colleges and universities. Bennett was able to meet Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi while attending a conference at the University of Connecticut in March, and he’s also met many other students involved with PeaceJam.
Bennett said one of his goals is to talk with other schools in the greater Portland area to get them interested in starting their own PeaceJam groups. He said being involved with the organization has helped him grow a lot over the past year.
“I think starting PeaceJam gave me confidence and gave me some leadership skills,” he said.
Cape Elizabeth High School senior Stephen Bennett is president of the school’s chapter of PeaceJam, which is bringing lecturer Paul K. Chappell to the school on Monday night, Oct. 26.
Paul K. Chappell, the peace leadership director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, will be giving a lecture at CEHS on Oct. 26.