World peace – it can be a noble concept that inspires altruistic organizations, or a cliché that provides a platform for movie punch lines (think the beauty contestants in “Miss Congeniality”).
If the world peace concept is to become a working model, how does it get from inspiration to reality? That question began nagging Santa Clarita Valley Sunrise Rotary member Colene Riffo over 13 years ago. In her search for a meaningful peace project, Colene’s path crossed that of Julia Morton-Marr, who founded the International Holistic Tourism Education Center, an organization dedicated to fostering healthy and non-violent communities.
Colene liked the organization’s component of building understanding and nurturing peaceful conflict management in the schools. With Morton-Marr’s encouragement (“think global, act local”), Colene developed a model for a “designated mediation site” that could literally and figuratively be called a peace garden – a place where a kernel of understanding could be planted, then cultivated through discussion and education, into a meaningful peace movement.
In 2014, with the backing of her national service organization (SCV Sunrise Rotary), the wholehearted approval of Saugus High School principal Bill Bolde, and the enthusiastic response of the school’s Rotary Interact Club (sponsored by SCV noontime Rotary), Colene’s peace garden took its initial steps toward reality.
The first completed phase of the project was unveiled Tuesday, September 6 at a dedication ceremony attended by Interact students, school officials, city leaders, and Rotarians from both Santa Clarita clubs.
SCV Sunrise Rotary president Greg Powell emceed the event, which included a welcome from Principal Bill Bolde
and a brief history of the project by Colene. She explained how a grant for matching funds from Rotary District 5280 provided the impetus to purchase the garden’s centerpiece, a gigantic boulder that will serve to anchor the garden’s other components. The rock sports a plaque that espouses the guidelines for participating in Peace Garden discussions, the Rotary Four-Way Test.
The Four-Way Test, adopted by Rotary International in 1942, is an ethical behavior model for all Rotarians, and by association, for the Rotary Interact members as well. It reads:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
“The rock foundation will provide the focus for the garden,” Bolde explained. “It will be supplemented by benches, artificial turf and a cover to make the setting more serene and inviting.”
The dedication included inspirational messages from Rotarians Ed Bolden and City of Santa Clarita Mayor ProTem, Dante Acosta, as well as outstanding presentations by Saugus High School students. Robert Miller played his guitar and sang John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Rony Kirollos recited his poem, “Give to Take,” and SHS Interact officer Michelle Sun provided a history of the 4-Way Test.
Current Saugus High Interact president Cassandra Colby thanked the club’s SCV Rotary advisor, Sue Endress, for her ongoing support; then she introduced the Interact leaders that were most instrumental in getting the project off to a solid start: 2014 officers Shawn Footitt and Sarah Hermann.
The ceremonies concluded with the unveiling of the monument by Cassandra, Colene, Bolde, and current Interact members. Then the group adjourned to the refreshment tables to discuss the project’s next phases. An ultimate goal is to create Peace Gardens on all the SCV high school campuses.