2019 Peace Awards Recipients
Students from 22 Fairfax County public schools have been named recipients of the 2019 Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County, designed to recognize young people who work as peacemakers. The 2019 recipients are:
- Annandale High School: Kora Corker
- Cedar Lane School: Nick Price
- Centreville High School: Deepika Joshi
- Chantilly High School: Annie Wang
- Edison High School: Reem Ali
- Fairfax High School: Lara Demir
- Hayfield Secondary School: Delina Kiflom
- Herndon High School: Lydia Goff
- Langley High School: Sumaiya Haque
- Lee High School: Oscar Manuel Lopez Hernandez,
- Madison High School: Hannan Mumtaz
- Marshall High School: Luka Gabitsinashvili
- McLean High School: Neha Rana
- Mount Vernon High School: Burhan Ahmed
- Mountain View High School: Romina Soleimani
- Quander Road School: Lauren Haymes
- South Lakes High School: Sophia Liao
- Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology: Angie Sohn
- West Potomac High School: Diana Argueta
- West Springfield High School: Laura Kirk
- Westfield High School: Makee Neves
- Woodson High School: Xuan Huynh
It’s not easy to be the peacemaker. Sometimes it is really hard, especially when you make those around you, even friends, angry when you speak out and stand up for what is right. And sometimes it can be dangerous. But in all instances, being the peacemaker “requires courage and commitment,” U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) told the crowd gathered at the Sherwood Community Center in Fairfax on Sunday, March 9.
Connolly, along with a host of sponsors, elected officials and a cheering collection of family and friends, had come together to honor the 23 young recipients of the 2019 Student Fairfax Peace Awards at a ceremony led by Margaret Fisher of program-founder Herndon Friends Meeting.
In addition to garnering kudos from the congressman, state Del. Ken Plum (D-36), Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross (Mason District), Scott Brabrand, Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent, and Karen Corbett Sanders, Mount Vernon District representative and vice chair of the FCPS board also officially offered their congratulations and admiration for the young activists.
Ryan McElveen and Ilryong Moon, members-at-large of the FCPS board, and Tamara Denerak Kaufax, FCPS board Lee District representative were also on hand to show their support.
THE EVENT’S KEYNOTE SPEAKER was David Swanson, an author, activist, journalist, radio host and co-founder and director of World Beyond War, a “global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.”
Swanson, a 1987 graduate of Herndon High School who identifies as a “world citizen,” presented his argument of “no justification for war, ever,” while admitting that his remarks could make his audiences uncomfortable, but asserted that they were words that need to be said and a conversation that needs to happen.
The Fairfax Student Peace Awards started in 2006 as one school, Herndon High School, and one sponsor, the Herndon Friends Meeting, but has grown to 19 sponsors and is now offered to every public high school in Fairfax County, as well as two private schools.
The goal of the program is to encourage young people to think more about peace “both as a means and as an end” and to recognize their achievements when they turn those peace-making thoughts into actions in their schools, their communities, and even around the world.
The program is open to area high school juniors and seniors. In October, each school is invited to choose either an individual or a group recipient with the guidelines that the students have worked “specifically for peace or to identify and resolve conflicts … demonstrating commitment to peace by engaging in activities that strive to end conflict … seeking to bridge language, ethnic, racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation, or class differences … and/or assist to resolve conflicts among students or members of the community who feel isolated or alienated.”
THE WINNERS received certificates of achievement, a monetary gift and an additional $100 to be donated to any nonprofit organization of the student’s choice that operates in a spirit that is in keeping with the Peace Awards and this year, an autographed copy of the book, “Sweet Fruits From The Bitter Tree” by Mark Andreas, stories of “creative and compassionate ways out of conflict.”
Read more about the Peace Awards and the recipients at www.fairfax.studentpeaceawards.org.
Area students who received Peace Awards include:
Winners from McLean, Langley, Marshall High
Neha Rana, a Senior at McLean High School, serves as the CE for the Speak Up Initiative, an organization that brings free public speaking education to children from low-income families.
She’s also the McLean representative to the Fairfax County Student Human Rights Commission and is the head of the Fairfax and Arlington Chapter of Rise to Run, a grass-roots organization that encourages young girls to participate in politics and run for political office in the future. She has also been involved with region-wide efforts to prevent gun violence, helping to organize last year’s peaceful walkout protest after the school shootings in Parkland, Florida.
Sumaiya Haque, a Senior at Langley High School,, organized a team to conduct a two-week Snapshot project in Dhaka. Bangladesh, providing cameras to 10-18-year-olds who have had traumatic experiences. The photographers can tell their own stories through visual images while building self confidence and establishing a role in their communities.
The photos can be sold, with proceeds benefiting the photographers’ communities. Sumaiya’s team also raised $20,000 for the project through a Go Fund Me campaign and presentations to local Rotary Clubs.
Luka Gabitsinashvili, a Senior at Marshall High School has been active in numerous clubs that bring service to the community and promote the principles of peace. As president of the Key Club he has raised funds for the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and collected hats for Ellie’s Hats for children with cancer.
He has helped organize two International Nights at Marshall to celebrate diversity and has worked with Amnesty International to write letters opposing human rights abuses around the globe and served as the Public Affairs Liaison for the Model United Nations conference held at Marshall – and still, somehow, finds time to co-teach a Creative Writing class at Wolf Trap Elementary, a once-a-week, after-school program.