Advocate video: East Dallas nonprofit plants peace in a DISD elementary school

At L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary School, teachers Victor Chacon and Tammy Fieldsmith teach 2nd-5th graders, and almost all of them are refugees from war-torn or politically unstable nations.

Most of the students, from Nepal, Thailand, Burma, Egypt, Liberia, Togo, Iraq and other places around the world, are learning English. And thanks to East Dallas-based nonprofit Today Marks the Beginning, they are learning about peace.

“A lot of them came from very violent places,” Chacon says. “You can tell by their behavior that some of them come from very violent backgrounds.”

Today Marks the Beginning, which East Dallas-based artist Karen Blessen founded, planted a peace garden with the refugee students at Hotchkiss. And they designed a peace pole together. The students created mosaics, which artists Diane Van Buren and Linda McLemore compiled onto the pole, made from PVC pipe. At the top, the artists added “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in six languages.

“By working together in a peaceful way, you can create something beautiful,” Fieldsmith told the students before their peace pole was unveiled last week.

This video shows part of the unveiling ceremony, and later, when the kids danced around the maypole. They decorated the maypole ribbons with messages of peace.


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  • CitizenKane

    Are they learning American history; that our founding fathers pledged their lives, fortune and good name, and fought a bloody American revolution for the princiapls of a Republic?