For the 12th consecutive year, the Village of Wellington and the Wellington Rotary Club will host a special International Peace Ceremony at Rotary Peace Park on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 3 p.m.
Guests are welcome to attend this free event designed to strengthen the ideals of peace between all nations and people. The event is timed to coincide with the United National International Day of Peace observance and is just one part of the Wellington Rotary’s year-round Peace Initiative program.
At the event, the winners of several peace-themed projects will be recognized.
“The Peace Initiative is basically an all-year event. It starts in the beginning of January every year where we go to the schools,” said Larry Kemp, co-chair of the Rotary Peace Initiative. “Elementary schools are doing posters, middle schools are doing poetry and high schools are doing essays — all on the subject of conflict resolution and multicultural understanding.”
Submissions are collected in May, at the end of the school year, and winners are chosen. Cash prizes of $50 each are awarded to the winning elementary school students. Middle school poetry contest winners each receive $75, and the high school essay winners receive $100. Teachers of the winning students also receive $50 each to help support their classroom needs.
The overall winning poster went to Ashley Glatzer of Panther Run Elementary School. She received $75, and her teacher Krisy Davis received the $50 classroom support. Other poster winners include Kristin Haggerty of Binks Forest Elementary School and Samuel Bedoya of Benoist Farms Elementary School.
In the middle school poetry competition, Deborah Mensah won at Emerald Cove Middle School, and Adora Girard took the top place for Wellington Landings Middle School.
The high school essay contest winners are Haley Askey of Palm Beach Central High School and Dalia Rubinowicz of Wellington High School.
The ceremony also includes a peace proclamation, read by Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig, followed by remarks from the Peace Initiative co-chairs, members of the Wellington Village Council and Wellington Rotary Club President Don Gross.
Rotary Peace Park, located near the Wellington library, was established 12 years ago through a partnership between the club and the village. It is free and open to the public year-round. One unique feature is the “peace poles” along a boardwalk that snakes into the adjoining wetlands.
“These are multi-sided poles — up to eight-sided — and on each side there’s the words ‘may peace prevail on earth.’ It’s in English on one side and other languages on the other sides,” Kemp said. “On the boardwalk, the International Walkway we call it, the day of the ceremony, we put flags on all of the peace poles representing many different countries.”
The village also provides seating and sets up tents for the event, which has hosted 300 guests in previous years.
“We also bring in speakers of other languages, who come in and say the words on the peace pole in Spanish, Hebrew and Japanese, to name a few,” Kemp said. “May peace prevail on earth.”
The Palm Beach Central High School Traditions Choir is slated to perform under the direction of Scott Houchins. Carly Cantor will sing the national anthem.
Another student being honored at the International Peace Ceremony is Palm Beach Central High School senior Vanessa Phan, who will receive the SMART award for her work in student mediation and conflict resolution.
Phan is president of the Together Against Genocide (TAG) club, and co-president of Palm Beach Central’s debate team. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, UNICEF club and the Palm Beach Central swim team.
Phan’s strengths in speech and writing have brought her accolades. She won the district essay contest, which permitted her to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Phan was also the first debate student in school history to not only qualify, but place 39th in her division for the National Catholic Forensics League.
Palm Beach Central has a Remembrance Garden on campus to honor victims of genocide and hate crimes around the world. Phan was part of the original team of students who created the memorial.
Phan’s involvement in peace initiatives has also brought her projects to workshops held across the Palm Beach County School District and even earned her an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a conference held at Florida Atlantic University. Her work “Slavery and Genocide” is a part of this year’s African American Studies curriculum.
The ceremony will also recognize Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Dwayne Brown, who will receive the Community Peace Award.
Wellington Rotary Peace Park is located at 1825 Royal Fern Drive. The event is open to the public and will go on, rain or shine.