GROTON -- Seven Groton-Dunstable High School students, along with three Groton-Dunstable college-age students, all members of the Bookmakers and Dreamers Club attended, by invitation, the 2013 United Nations International Day of Peace Student Conference in New York City on Sept. 18.
The 2013 theme defined by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is "Education for Peace," focusing on the importance of education for achieving a Culture of Peace.
Departing from the high school with "Ernie," who traditionally drives the Buckingham Bus to the UN each year, Groton-Dunstable students and chaperones traveled to New York one day before the conference.
Arriving in time to be treated to a pizza dinner by John Feal and members of the FealGood Foundation (an organization working for justice for First Responders of the 9/11 terrorist attacks), the group visited the 9/11 Memorial on Long Island.
This year's attendees included Groton-Dunstable students Hannah Tellier, Eric McIntosh, Lauren Malsick, Alex Philibert, Emily Gaines, Michael Suchecki, Emily Olson, and John Thornburn, staff members Betsy Sawyer (BMDC Advisor) and Maria Viera, adult chaperones Ilene Hill, Jennifer Petersen, Charlie Sawyer, Kate Sawyer, Reese Govini, Mary Lou Lynam, Kim Gionet, Jane Harmon, and photographer, John Love, and college students who were members of the BMDC including Drew Gentile, who traveled on the bus, and Rachele Carbutt, and Meaghan Biggs who met the group in NY.
Back on the home front, Groton-Dunstable High School Principal, Mike Mastrullo commented on the Bookmakers and Dreamers Club members, saying, "We are so honored and proud to once again be recognized by the United Nations. We often talk about how amazing the kids of this district are, and The Big Book: Pages for Peace Project provides a tangible piece of evidence, and a little context to that assertion. We are so proud of all the students and staff who have worked diligently through the years to compile this book."
On the morning of the UN conference, Groton-Dunstable students were seated right up front, close to the dignitaries, including Messengers of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall, and UN Foundation "Girl Up" Champion Monique Coleman. Participating throughout the day via Skype were teachers and students from Haiti, whom Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed in French.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's opening reflections on the theme, "Education for Peace" focused on the importance of education in fostering global citizenship and building peaceful societies.
Directing his comments to the students, Ki-moon stated, "By being here, I know you share my passion for peace. You are my inspiration. Looking at you, I know we can create the future we want. You have fresh ideas and energy. You are risk-takers, innovators, dreamers.
"My message to you is: never be afraid to dream. If you have passion, and compassion, today's dream can become tomorrow's reality. You are tomorrow's mothers and fathers, teachers, doctors and humanitarian workers, politicians and business leaders. We need you to help build an enduring culture of peace."
Following the formal presentations, what a day it was for the Groton Dunstable BMDC students, who were specifically invited to present their Big Book: Pages for Peace Project to the entire worldwide audience. Rachele Carbutt, who traveled from Mount Holyoke College to meet the other Bookmakers and Dreamers in New York City, was the first of two Groton-Dunstable student speakers to address dignitaries and guests at the UN conference. Her part in the presentation was to explain how the club began and what it is all about.
Carbutt summarized how the club first started, how the kids chose the topic of peace and all the work that was completed after their decision was made.
"I spoke about our goal as a group to educate and spread the thought of peace so as to make it common in our everyday lives, helping to create a more peaceful world," Carbutt said. "I have been going to the International Youth Peace Conference with the club since our first visit in 2008. This was my first time speaking and I enjoyed spreading our message.
"Personally, I always look forward to seeing Jane Goodall there. She is such an inspiring person and being able to hear what she has to say and be lucky enough to experience is really amazing!"
Directing guests to view one of the life-size pages of the Big Book: Pages for Peace, printed by EFI of Meredith, N.H., specifically for the presentation, the second Groton-Dunstable student speaker, Hannah Tellier shared her perspective with guests.
Tellier stated, "The Pages for Peace club has been a huge learning experience for me as well as many of the other kids involved. In our peace room we have a huge world map on the wall with pins in all the places that are in conflict to help us understand where these places are and what they're fighting about."
She continued, "One of our goals is to share what we have learned about world peace with other kids and we have done just that. In our travels we have visited the United Nations, the Tillman Chapel, the Peace Abbey, and many other places to learn more about what other people have done to make a difference in their own way. But it doesn't end there. In 2010 our club had a Skype call with teens in Afghanistan. We learned that kids all across the world no matter where they live are just like us."
"We think that the first place to start is with educating young children in peaceful conflict resolve," she said. "As bookmakers we have created one of the biggest books in the world but as dreamers we will change the world."
Attending the conference since 2008, BMDC advisor Betsy Sawyer has been nurturing the development of relationships with those involved at the UN. "How can you beat this?" Sawyer asked, ecstatic that this year's UN message parallels the goals of the Big Book: Pages for Peace Project so similarly; wanting to share the message of peace with kids everywhere.
"This has been our dream!" Sawyer exclaimed.
Sawyer repeated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's comment, "Let us pick up our books and pens, for they are powerful weapons."
"Fifty-seven million children are still denied an education," Ki-moon said, emphasizing his goal to put education first to build stronger and better societies.
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Sawyer was honored to be a teacher, hearing Ki-moon say, "Education is the best investment for any government or community for the future."
The entire conference was motivating to Sawyer, with bell-ringing, beautiful music and inspirational speakers who addressed the importance of education, the need to eliminate poverty and the common goal for global peace.
Hearing that "...the young are inheriting violence and fear," along with the message from Ki-moon, "... never be afraid -- it is a step by step process" moved Sawyer to share these messages with the upcoming members of this year's Bookmakers and Dreamers Club at the Middle School.
An incredible opportunity presented itself at the end of the conference, when UN Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury wanted to meet personally with the Bookmakers and Dreamers. While the larger group had commitments causing them to return on time, Hannah Tellier and her dad, Dave Tellier, decided to stay to speak with him.
Ambassador Chowdhury escorted them to the UN Tillman Chapel to share his deep interest in the BMDC's project, "...because it is so similar to my work," he stated. He arranged for a follow up meeting and may arrange to have the Big Book: Pages for Peace displayed at the United Nations.
Within a day of attending the 2013 UN International Day of Peace Student Conference, Betsy Sawyer received a glowing compliment from Monica Willard, the UN Non-Governmental Organizations Representative, who said, "What a great job you did with the presentation!"
Willard had the pleasure of meeting Groton-Dunstable student Michael Suchecki, whose younger twin siblings, anxious to join the BMDC, started their own effort called "HOPE" -- Helping Other People Everyday."
Willard said, "I was so pleased to meet the student with his sisters' project of HOPE!" Willard forwarded an email, sharing the idea of "HOPE" with the Department of Public Information, "the voice of the United Nations whose role is to promote global awareness and greater understanding of the work of the United Nations" as a possible theme for consideration for the 2014 International Day of Peace.
Groton-Dunstable Regional School Superintendent, Dr. Anthony Bent, talked about the impact of the Big Book on the students in the district.
"The Big Book: Pages for Peace Project is one of the special activities that distinguishes the Groton-Dunstable Public Schools. Under the leadership of Betsy Sawyer, students, staff and parents have been coming together for several years to learn how they can make a contribution to a more peaceful world. The benefits to the children are substantial as they interact with students and adults from all over the world. From my perspective as a superintendent interested in global education, the Big Book: Pages for Peace Project is a perfect example of preparing students for their future, not our past."