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Mount School PeaceJammers Combat Racism at Conference

Four senior school girls stand before a room filled with younger pupils who are watching a video the teens have prepared earlier. The video ends.

“So what do you think racism means?” the teenagers ask their audience. Hands shoot up and so begins a frank discussion which is surprisingly mature, given the ages of its participants.

Year 9 students at The Mount, Isla Brown, Lillimae Elliot, Orlaith Kelley and Alicia Lake are joining the University of Winchester’s PeaceJam Conference this weekend 12 and 13 March. They will present the results of their anti-racism workshop and listen to Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Nobel Peace Laureate, 1992) who is a peaceful advocate of indigenous people’s rights and was a founder member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative in 2006.

The Mount is the UK’s first school to introduce into a school-wide curriculum the programmes of the international PeaceJam Foundation. These programmes, devised by leading Nobel Peace Laureates, help teenagers become active citizens and advocates for peace, justice and human rights.

“We picked racism because it is something we all feel passionately about,” says Orlaith.

In their enthusiasm for the topic, the girls finish each others’ sentences:
“Racism’s much more common than people think.…”
“It’s in the news so much with the refugee crisis….”
“As a boarding school we have a very multicultural community….”
“We want to raise awareness and also help others to clarify misunderstandings. For instance, it’s not racist to ask for a coloured crayon….”
“But it IS racist to believe certain things about other people because of the colour of their skin…”
“Or their hair colour.”
“I’m looking forward to hearing Rigoberta, learning new things, meeting new people and raising awareness about the need to stop racism,” says Orlaith.
“This conference is a really great opportunity,” says Alicia. “We’re very lucky.”

The girls’ workshop with the younger students in the Junior School is a success. After their discussion, the girls created images that they felt depicted racism or the fight against racism. Says Isla, “The images they came up with were really good, some of it was better than anything I could do!”

Lillimae nods, saying, “I was really nervous before this workshop, but it was actually quite fun, and the students felt they had learned something.”

Adrienne Richmond, Principal of The Mount, said, “Students at The Mount enjoy the most incredible opportunity for young people: to learn about peace from Nobel Peace Laureates. As the UK’s only Quaker school for girls, The Mount’s Senior School uniquely combines the advantages of an all-girls education with the benefits of the Quaker ethos which values simplicity, truth, equality, peace and social justice.”

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