Pa’lante Week Of Action Shows That Knights Ride For Peace

A youth organized week of action shows the compassion, kindness, and intelligence of Holyoke High students.

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A week of action organized by the students of the Pa’lante Restorative Justice Program was held at Holyoke High on the week of January 23rd to the 27th with activities centered around the theme of embracing peace instead of resorting to violence.

Pa’Lante is a youth-led restorative justice program working together to build youth power and voice in Holyoke Public Schools. Restorative justice is a system of criminal justice that focuses on the act of improving offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community as a whole.

In schools, restorative justice encourages students to resolve conflicts on their own through communication in a safer learning environment which gives the offenders and the victims a chance to resolve their conflicts and make things right without violence.

Students who belong to the program at Holyoke High organized events and activities that revolved around the theme of peace over violence in order to bring awareness to the all the violence that has been currently happening lately at the school and emphasize the need for it to stop.

Activities and events that took place during the week included positive peace quotes being announced every morning, a pizza and ice cream art-making party in where students were able to put their artistic abilities to use to create posters promoting peace, and assemblies to address school violence.

The posters promoting peace are currently displayed throughout the hallways at the school and cannot be missed.

At lunch, there was a photo booth area in where students were given the opportunity to come together with their friends and classmates to take silly photos with props and students were also encouraged to sign a peace pledge to commit to resolving conflict using peer-led mediation instead of violence.

Over one hundred students signed the peace pledge and each one of them received a purple wristband with the hashtag #knightsrideforpeace.  Students used this hashtag as a social media campaign to spread the word of what was happening that week at school.

“We wanted to inform students on who we are and ways to prevent violence,” said Restorative Justice Member Stephanie Duque, “we offer for students to come to us, and talk, instead if resorting to violence to solve their conflicts.”

An assembly was held on Wednesday, January 25th, in the auditorium in where staff, along with the restorative justice program, spoke and addressed the issue of violence in school and how it cannot continue. Videos were shown, including the now gone viral “Holyoke High Fight! Stop Violence!” video by students Kenny Roche and Erick Ricardo and other videos involving staff members. The goal was not only to inform students of what was happening in school in regards to the high levels of fighting and what should be done but also to do it in a creative way that inspired others to take initiative and advocate for change.

“The assembly was really effective,” said junior Owen Lavelle, “I think it’s great that the students are standing up for what they believe in and making the school a better place.”

Students sign a pledge for peace during all three HHS lunches.

Students are teachers were also asked to sign a pledge at lunch, saying that they would not engage in violence, or promote violent behavior in or out of school. Hopefully Holyoke can make peace week into an every week event by continuing to show respect to those around them and to themselves.

“We want to get people to realize, you know, that you don’t have to resort to fighting and for them to realize that doing things like that is what makes us look bad as a whole city even though that’s not what we are all about.” said Vianca Gonzalez, a member of the restorative justice program.

Overall, the week of action has received a huge positive response which hopefully creates a long lasting impact on the students. “We hope to let people know that when there is a conflict, because there’s going to be – like thats life, that there are other things they can use like use restorative justice, instead [of violence], and I think that is happening,” said Dani O’Brien, the advisory coordinator of the program.

In a school system with an already negative image, the Pa’Lante week of action and the video created by Roche and Ricardo have risen above stereotype and image to show that #knightsrideforpeace