Daryn Cambridge of Washington, DC, attended PPI 2011. Daryn reports here about how and why he embarked on this project to institute peace education program at Washington’s American University and the role his PPI experience has played in that endeavor.
Peace Education at American University
In July 2011, I attended in the National Peace Academy’s Peacebuilding Peaclearning Intensive. To be honest, I did not really know what to expect. All I knew was that if there was a place where people from around the world interested in peacebuilding and education were going to congregate, then I wanted to be there. (Vermont in the summer was an added bonus.) The experience turned out to be more than I could have imagined. It gave me clarity of vision in terms of how to focus my efforts in building peace education programming and curricula and brought me into a community that was going to be my ally and partner in those efforts. To explain the importance of this new found focus I need to go back a few years.
In 2007, I entered American University’s International Training and Education program with the purpose of developing global peace education curricula and programs for high school age youth. As part of those efforts, I took all my electives through AU’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution program, ultimately getting a professional certificate in that field. In short, I crafted as best I could my own course of study that immersed me in the field of peace education.
No peace education certificate, program, or track existed at American University, despite what I felt to be the presence of a faculty, a course selection, a student body, and a local community interested in peace education. As a student, I developed partnerships with faculty and students in an attempt to get a peace education certificate program started. Once I graduated, however, these efforts took a backseat to other life and work responsibilities.
This is a picture of me with the participants in the Education for Peace and Conflict Resolution course I taught at American University during the summer of 2010. The participants are Washington, DC public school teachers, counselors, and administrators. The course was offered through the DC government’s Alliance for Quality Urban Education (AQUE) program, providing free continuing education graduate credits for public school educators. This photo was taken on my birthday. The participants surprised me that day with a cake and a couple gifts. It was very sweet!
Five years later, my experience with the National Peace Academy not only reignited the fire within in me to help AU develop a peace education certificate program, it also made that fire burn even stronger. After a week of hearing and learning from other PPI participants and the peacebuilding programs they had been developing in their own communities, that wave of inspiration gave me new ideas and energy to put reflective thought into planned action.
Within a week of returning to Washington, DC, in July 2011, I launched into my project. I contacted several of my colleagues at American University, shared with them my PPI experience, and laid out my ideas of how and why American University can and should become one of the leading institutions in the field of peace education. I also brought other peace educators and organizations I had met through NPA into this conversation and started to see this dream morphing into a reality.
American University is now in the process of determining what this peace education certificate program would look like, where it would be housed within the university, how it would be promoted, and how it could generate localized peace education efforts. These are just the initial planning meetings, but they mark a huge step in making American University THE place to go for people interested in peace education.
In addition, a peace educator and friend of mine, Arthur Romano, whom I met at PPI, recently moved to Washington, DC, and is teaching at George Mason University. The two of us have started collaborating on ways we can connect our two peace education classes (his at GMU and mine at AU) and how they can play a role in building the peace education community among a variety of local schools, universities, and organizations.
In conclusion, my experience with NPA has given me inspiration, process, and community – three ingredients to successfully implementing peacebuilding in one’s own context. The inspiration came from celebrating the work of community peacebuilders and having the opportunity speak with them about the motivations, challenges, and strengths of their project. The process came from the visioning, reflection, and planning exercises that were used throughout PPI and have given me the guidance for how to make progress on my project. And the community came from the strong bonds and friendships that we created with one another over the course of a week. That community is what keeps this cycle going. Hearing about the progress of others is inspirational, and staying in touch with the community reminds me of the processes that brought us together.