An effort to cultivate a culture of nonviolence and peace at South Side High School was outlined during Monday's meeting of the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne – and got a vocal endorsement from Fort Wayne Community Schools' superintendent.
Peacemaker Academy, built on nonviolence training in the tradition of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will work with 15 to 20 students from the high school for three weeks beginning June 28.
The students will learn the philosophy and principles of nonviolence and then in subsequent weeks develop and implement a project to address violence in their school, said the Rev. Angelo Mante, who is spearheading the academy.
Mante, who grew up in Fort Wayne, is executive director of Alive Community Outreach.
The peace academy is being supported by the local Rotary club's Peace Committee – and by Superintendent Mark Daniel, who rose to speak in favor of it.
“The need is great,” he said. “As superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools, I'll endorse it 100%.”
Mante said the academy is concentrating on South Side High School because of “a concentration of violence” on the south side of Fort Wayne.
“This is not a controversial statement,” Mante said.
This year, Fort Wayne already has had 21 homicides, including about a dozen in the past few months. A quadruple slaying included a mother and three children last week in their south-side home.
The level of violence means a significant number of students have experienced a connection to violence, Mante said. The academy, he said, intends to change the mindset of young people, so they “internalize” and “institutionalize” nonviolence.
The project, which students will pitch before district administrators in July, will be of their own design and can be anything from a one-time event to a continuing emphasis, such as a nonviolence club, Mante said.
He said the academy is still accepting inquiries and applications at firstname.lastname@example.org. Students who show leadership skills or interest and who can become influencers of their peers are sought, Mante said.
The academy will provide a $750 “stipend” for those who complete the academy's program, said Mante, who noted this is a pilot project that could be extended to other schools.
The academy will meet at City Life, a ministry of Youth for Christ across Calhoun Street from South Side High School. City Life describes itself as a “faith-based” nonprofit organization.
However, the academy's educational material is not based on religion, said Lynn Gilmore, Rotary's president and on the board of Alive.
“Peace is one of the seven global areas of focus of Rotary International and is why we're supporting this initiative both financially and through volunteerism,” she said.
“Our club's Peace Committee is looking forward to working alongside Peacemaker Academy.”