by Cameron Calvillo
Every Tuesday at twelve forty-five, the Reedley High Students for Peace Club volunteers their lunch time to better understand the problems of the world and figure out how they can do their part to help. The students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, come from all backgrounds, each carrying differing opinions and views. But all this is left at the door as each student shares the same dream of curing the injustices of the world, one step at a time.
The club is led by student leaders Gina Cedeno, senior, and Brissa Reyes, junior. They have been part of the club since their freshman year and are now proudly leading the club with optimism and big smiles. The head teacher of the club is Mr. Don Friesen, Reedley High’s notoriously good Calculus teacher. When students learn that a math teacher is head of a Peace Club, they are taken by surprise. It is typically an English or other humanities teacher that leads Peace Clubs. Students who join the club find more than just a math teacher; they find a man eager and passionate to share his thirst for justice.
I asked why he started to take part in Student’s for Peace fifteen years ago. He thought about it for a minute, then answered, “I think a better question is why I didn’t take part sooner. But I remember after 9/11, everybody was talking of going to war, and it upset me. It was so soon, and already they were ready to take up arms. I wanted people to know that there are other ways. There are non-violent actions that can be taken that have been proven to be more effective than war. Gandhi and MLK’s techniques have been very effective in many situations. And it’s not just that, there are many injustices happening in this world, happening to innocent people. I teach mathematics, but it’s injustices that I care about more.”
The topic of non-violent actions always makes its way to the discussion table, and generally is the overall theme of the club. But other issues are carefully dissected and thought about. The year was kicked off by continuing a project started the year before, the ‘Water Bottle’ campaign. Students for Peace wanted to do something about plastic water bottles, not only falsely advertising about their cleanliness, but also ending up in landfills in places like India. Together they came up with the solution of buying water bottles sporting the Pirate logo that were made with environmentally clean chemicals in America and selling them at a non-profit price. The bottles were ordered the first week of school, and for two weeks afterwards, were sold at lunch. The students were eager to sell the bottles and spread awareness of the hidden truth of water bottles. Those who had a water bottle at home were encouraged to bring it. After the two weeks of tireless effort, many students at Reedley High now walk around carrying their pirate water bottle or one they had squirreled away at home.
After the ‘Water Bottle’ campaign, the students took a look at problems facing refugees from Palestine and Syria. A speaker from Palestine, as well a Fresno State graduate, spoke to the club about a family who escaped Palestine and is now taking residence in Greece. The students left from that meeting with a heavy heart but determined to help. Hannah Gibson, senior, and Mr. Alexander Busch, the very young and active Human Geography teacher at Reedley High, took the lead in planning a homecoming booth and donation cans to raise money for the family. The homecoming booth was a success raising over forty dollars for the family. The donation cans are spread throughout the school, and the club is eager to collect them in the coming month. Even though the subject of refugees has been controversial lately, Students for Peace taught it members that some of these people are in serious need of our help, and their suffering is due to tragic injustices that have led to the loss of their homes.
“I knew that those people needed our help, but I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the problem until that speaker showed us those videos. It makes me want to do so much more for these people,” said Adam Villarreal, senior and club member, when I asked him how he felt on the topic.
Currently, the Club is discussing the dangers that corporations pose to consumers and workers. Every week will be spent discussing a new topic, such as Isis, Black Lives Matter, women as a minority, immigration, the war in Iraq, and the list goes on. Much is discussed, but what can a club in Reedley, California do about problems around the world?
I asked club member Hannah Gibson what her goal is by being a part of the club. She responded, speaking for the whole club, “Solving problems starts with us. If we all just do a little bit to help, a huge difference will be made. But, sadly, most people aren’t aware of these problems. So I want spread awareness because that’s where change starts.”