Santa Fe Student Group Youth United Wins Global Call To Action Challenge

25 October 2012

Students Will Fly to Denver to Meet Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee and a Nobel Laureate Will Visit Their School

Youth United, a group of middle and high school students from Santa Fe, New Mexico, have been named winners of the 2012 Global Call to Action Challenge, co-sponsored by the Pearson Foundation and PeaceJam. The award recognizes the group’s outstanding literacy campaign, Hooked on Books, a citywide effort led and coordinated by Youth United to inspire and encourage children with the joys of reading.

In a short time, Youth United’s efforts have made a major impact on the children and community of Santa Fe. Hooked on Books began in 2011as a project of students at the Santa Fe School for Arts and Sciences. Inspired by their teacher, Rayna Dineen, and a trip to India to visit a model literacy program there, the students began organizing monthly reading contests in Santa Fe elementary schools. Their group, Youth United, evolved into a citywide student committee, and working with local government and businesses, they formed a larger coalition, the New Mexico Alliance for Literacy, which promotes literacy among young people across the Santa Fe area.

As Challenge Grand Prize winners, representatives of Youth United will attend the annual PeaceJam Hero Awards Luncheon taking place in Denver on November 13, 2012 to receive their award from 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. Ms. Gbowee led a peaceful women’s movement in Liberia, which played a pivotal role in ending the Liberian Civil War.

In addition to their trip to Denver, Youth United has earned a daylong visit to their school by one of the Nobel Peace Laureates who serve on PeaceJam’s Board. During the visit, the Nobel Laureate will meet with the students and discuss new approaches and strategies for their Hooked on Books campaign. The winning team’s trip and the Nobel Laureate’s visit to their school are funded by the Pearson Foundation as part of its support of the Global Call to Action Challenge. In addition, the Pearson Foundation is donating 1,000 books to the Hooked on Books effort as part of its digital literacy program, We Give Books.

The strategy of the Youth United activists is to offer incentives to get kids to start reading, confident that it will then become a lifelong habit. In Hooked on Books monthly contests, elementary school children are awarded prizes for reading and for creating motivational tools for the campaign such as posters. The prizes have included bicycles, skateboards and Kindle ebook readers. Contests often culminate in events such as a Halloween Masquerade Ball.

Hooked on Books also has a presence outside of school through free book swap shelves located in supermarkets, hospital waiting rooms, and other places where families and children spend time. These mini lending libraries are sponsored by local businesses and the shelves are stocked and maintained by Youth United volunteers.

In the summer of 2012, Youth United ran a free intensive reading summer day camp called Reading Is Magic. Using game play and other innovative techniques, the student volunteers made a measureable difference in the abilities of the younger children who attended the camp. On average, participants increased their reading scores on standardized tests by one grade level after just two weeks of camp.

The Global Call to Action Challenge, which encourages young people to document their service learning projects and achievements, is part of PeaceJam’s international mission of promoting the creation and implementation of one billion local service projects that extend the work of leading Nobel Peace Laureates including Leymah Gbowee, Jody Williams, the Dali Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“Hooked on Books and the work of Youth United in Santa Fe, shows once again the power of young people to improve their schools, their communities, and the world,” said Dawn Engle, PeaceJam co-founder. “Instead of waiting for adults to act, these inspirational young leaders have shown the way, tackling the serious problem of illiteracy and creating long-lasting and measureable results. Their work echoes the dedication and selflessness of the Nobel Peace Prize winners in helping to make the world a better place and they stand as models for everyone, young and old.

“These young people show us through their actions that it is possible for anyone to make a positive contribution and improve the lives of those around us,” said Mark Nieker, president and CEO of the Pearson Foundation. “Like past Global Call to Action winners, the students of Youth United provide a model of positive engagement and a rejection of apathy and indifference. We are very happy to continue our support of PeaceJam and the Global Call to Action Challenge, to help recognize and encourage young activists who are building a better world.”

About The PeaceJam Foundation

PeaceJam is an international education program built around leading Nobel Peace Laureates who work personally with youth to pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody. The goal of PeaceJam is to inspire a new generation of peacemakers who will transform their local communities, themselves, and the world. Since its launch in 1996, more than 600,000 youth have participated in the PeaceJam program creating and implementing almost one million service projects. Over 150 PeaceJam youth events have taken place in over 10 different countries throughout the world.

About The Pearson Foundation

The Pearson Foundation is the lead sponsor of the Global Call to Action Challenge and is the philanthropic arm of Pearson plc, one of the world’s leading media and education companies. The Pearson Foundation extends Pearson’s commitment to education by partnering with leading nonprofit, civic, and business organizations to provide financial, organizational, and publishing assistance across the globe. For more information on the Pearson Foundation, please visit www.pearsonfoundation.org.

CONTACT: Jes Ward

Email: jes@peacejam.org
Phone: 303-455-2099 Fax: 303-455-3921
Address: 11200 Ralston Road, Arvada, CO 80004
Website: http://www.peacejam.org

To Attend The PeaceJam Hero Awards Luncheon
November 13, 2012
Denver Center for Performing Arts 12:00PM – 1:30?PM
For Tickets Call 303-455-2099