MORRO BAY — It was 2016 and the election was over. For many people, the election of the present federal administration spelled a feeling of concern for their freedoms. Whether they were right or wrong is not the issue. What was important to them was making sure that the upcoming generation would have access to an education that emphasizes peace and harmony.
This was especially true for Noha Kolkailah, a Muslim woman who was born in Cairo but raised in California. Kolkailah became a teacher and is currently Assistant Principal of Mission Prep Catholic High School. It might seem unusual for a Muslim woman to be involved in the administration of a Catholic school but Kolkailah emphasizes that the two faiths are not all that dissimilar. With these things in mind, she set out to develop a school program emphasizing peace and peacemaking. A diverse group of similar people joined her and thus was formed the Peace Academy of Science and Arts.
The members of the Peace Academy desire to create holistic real-world experiences in an eco-friendly, robust learning environment. Kolkailah felt that it was imperative to start with the very young. “We need to raise a generation of children who will be able to make better decisions for our country,” she says.
She was joined at first by Michael Mazzella, a Buddhist, who works in mental health and the two formed a group of founders that include, Adam Loveridge, a Spiritual Christian Director, Brandi Dodson, who works in real estate and holds a National Association of Realtors Green Designation, Reverend Rob Keim, Rector and Priest at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Dr. Nisha Abdul Cader, General and Child Abuse Pediatrician, Dr. Stephen Lloyd-Moffett, internationally known Religious Scholar and Professor of Religious Studies at Cal-Poly University, Rabbi Janice Mehring, Spiritual Leader at Reform Synagogue Congregation Ohr Tzafon in Atascadero, Sarah Mostafa, Policy and Sustainability Professional with San Luis Obispo County, and Sameen Sultan, doing business development in San Francisco.
These founders aspire to prepare students for their future by developing the whole child, implementing innovative instructional strategies, empowering them to interact globally and preparing them for jobs that do not yet exist.
The Peace Academy developed three pillars of compassionate leadership, those being:
Self-Awareness for students to understand how to become confident in his or her own connection with nature and humanity on a spiritual, social, artistic and scientific level and to become emotionally intelligent, to empathize and understand his or her interactions with others.
Global Citizenship to understand people’s diverse backgrounds, including faith, without judgment, in order to understand the complexity of humanity and to become competent world citizens.
Social Justice and Environmental Awareness to establish a common thread of care for the world and its people and to understand the human impact on the planet.
The teaching philosophy encompasses real-world applications so that learning will have a purpose and objectives will be interrelated; an emotionally safe environment for creative innovations so students will use their own curiosities to problem solve through an interdisciplinary and interactive curriculum for them to reach their highest potential and become peace leaders; a thread of core human values through exposure to diversity expressed in cultures and faith traditions from the whole world. Students would learn that together we are strong, and our differences make us stronger.
The Peace Academy core human values of focus are peace and peacemaking, humility, compassion, kindness, seeking knowledge and wisdom, generosity, gratitude, and love.
This summer begins a second year with a new summer enrichment program to be held at Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School from July 8 to August 2. Classes of four weeks are for ages six through eight and will cover subjects: Reflections Rooted In and Rising Up; Rock Stories; Love, Que Pasa. For ages 9 through 11 classes cover Heroic Journeys; Cooking for the Climate; Love, Life, and Struggle; Movement in the Mud. For ages 14 through 18 there is a one-week teen leadership conference entitled Forming Local Citizens into Global Leaders. This conference will discuss the United Nations 30 Basic Human Rights and empower students to delve into critical analysis of current events and global issues.
Much more information, fees and registration can be found at www.peaceacademyslo.org.