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SCHERERVILLE — Forest Ridge eighth-grader Veronica Ruiz-Avila said peace means being able to wake up every morning knowing that you are safe and loved.

Ruiz-Avila, 13, is one of the 207 students at Forest Ridge Academy and among hundreds of thousands of people in the world who celebrated International Peace Day on Wednesday.

The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations Resolution 36/37, the day is devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”

With tears in her eyes at some points, Ruiz-Avila said her parents are from Bolivia. She said when she thinks about the violence going on around the nation and the shootings and bombings in the United States, she doesn’t understand why.

“I think it’s so wrong,” she said. “I don’t understand why people are hurting other people. The bombings, what is the point of it? What are they trying to prove? Humans are humans. We’re equal. I wish people would understand that everyone is equal. No one is superior. I think the bombings are terrible.”

Students at Forest Ridge completed dozens of projects over the last couple of weeks. Every student at Forest Ridge from the preschoolers to eighth-graders participated in an art project directed by art teacher Carrie Coslov where they painted a piece of what was a large white dove on a black background.

Ruiz-Avila said she thought the dove picture that students put together was really good and showed how students are able to collaborate. Eighth-graders also guided the younger students and cut out a picture of their own hands and wrote a statement about what peace means to each of them.

Parent Hamdeep Singh, who is also the secretary of the Forest Ridge Academy School Board, and school Principal Cindy Arnold said more than 33 different nationalities are represented at the school.

Singh said she attended a conference with representatives of the school and was impressed with an author there, who talked about peace and how people find joy and peace in their life.

“It’s so in line with our school’s philosophy of becoming a citizen of the world, respecting diversity, focusing on the environment and sharing and being kind to all,” she said.

Arnold said Forest Ridge is one of many schools that are an International Peace site.

“As head of the school and just as a person, it makes me sad to see the negative things that are going on in the world when there are so many positive things going on, yet people focus on the negative,” she said.

Arnold said students are involved in numerous positive projects to bring joy and peace to others throughout the year including making bags for people in hospice, sending treat bags and snacks to members of the military and raising money for the Gary Animal Shelter.

Forest Ridge Academy first-grader Kala Stash, 6, said what he learned from International Peace Day is the importance of being nice to all animals and humans.

“I’m nice to all my friends. I have three big brothers. I’m the youngest. I don’t like that so much,” he said.


Education reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.