by Mary Johnston-de Leon
Chapter 54 of the Veterans for Peace (VFP) in Santa Barbara, California, is proud to announce the birth of a new entity at Santa Barbara High School: the Peace Academy. The new academy replaces the high school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), which was closed down because of lack of enrollment. The counter-recruitment arm of the VFP chapter, which educates youth on military recruiting, had a lot to do with the closure. But because the JROTC filled a need for many under-served youth in our community, a gap was created by its dissolution.
Activists Fill Gap Left by Departure of Military Ed
Lane Anderson, a well-known member of the Santa Barbara VFP chapter (and currently activist-in-action in Mexico and other parts south) came up with the idea of creating a replacement for JROTC. She recruited the help of another well-known community activist, VFP member, former city council member, gang expert, artist and spiritualist, Babatunde Folayemi, to partner in the idea.
Babatunde, with his well-rounded experience in dealing with under-served youth, decided to name the organization the Peace Academy. It consists of many local organizations and businesses that have offered to provide their services. These organizations will provide classes in mediation and conflict resolution, boxing, aikido, martial arts, sailing, fishing, outdoor activities including indigenous rites of passage ceremonies, and many more. The Santa Barbara School District Superintendent fully supports and endorses the academy. What better way to fill the needs of kids than with some wholesome, directed activities such as these?
The Challenge for Others to Replace Militarism
The Peace Academy will officially be part of the high school curriculum, once the school board approves it and the curriculum. I challenge other chapters to follow our lead, and to use this model as an example of how we can replace the militarism in our society, starting with our kids, and in the school system. Φ
Mary Johnston-de Leon is a member of VFP Chapter 54 in Santa Barbara, CA.