Such a wonderful thing
It makes you think of a bell’s ring’
The message of peace in Jonathan Fields’ poem hung in the air.
It was written on paper, dangling on a string — reminiscent of a knitted square in a quilt of poetry made by students at Learning Gate Community School.
About 600 students at the Lutz-based charter school shared artwork, poetry and songs of peace with the North American torch relay team from the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Peace Run.
About a dozen relay runners dropped by both Learning Gate campuses on May 3.
The kindergarten through sixth grade school is on Hanna Road. The school for seventh- and eighth-graders is on Lutz Lake Fern Road.
The torch runners also made visits to a school and neighborhood center in Pinellas County before heading to Alabama.
The team is on a 10,000-mile North American relay that began in New York City in mid-April and will finish in New York in mid-August. Members represented several countries including the United States, France and Hungary.
The “Peace Run” is the inspiration of Sri Chinmoy, an athlete, philosopher, artist, musician and poet who organized the inaugural run in 1987 to promote international friendship. Since then more than 5 million people have participated and runners have visited more than 140 countries, according to the website for the Peace Run foundation.
To prepare for the visit, Learning Gate students wrote poems. First-graders created paper chains with messages for peace. Students also practiced songs to perform for their guests.
“Each student wrote a way they show peace to each other,” said first-grader Margo Armstrong who read from a statement from classmates on why they made the peace chain.
“You children are definitely the voices of the world,” said Cathy Oerter. “It’s all about the journey of self-discovery.”
Oerter’s husband, Al Oerter, was a four-time Olympic gold medalist in the discus throw. He was the first athlete to win gold at four consecutive Olympic games, setting records each time.
He died in 2007 but his nonprofit Al Oerter Foundation continues to promote character and integrity through support for sports and the arts.
His wife said the foundation often partners with the Sri Chinmoy relay runs.
She presented certificates of excellence to two Learning Gate fifth-graders Simon Noguerol and Kaitlyn Detuccio.
Several students read their poems.
Fourth-grader J.B. Montague shared his mathematical prowess, detailing his classmates’ accomplishments in March, the national month for reading awareness.
He added up more than 12 million seconds spent in reading.
The motto for the bi-annual torch relay is ‘Peace begins with me.” The run promotes the universal connections among people around the world, said Arpan DeAngelo, the United States team captain.
Besides the North American relay, a second team began a 16,000-mile run in Portugal in February and that will conclude in Rome in October. A third relay in the South Pacific begins this month.
Relay runner Natabara Rolloson led students on a brief race as a “peace train” across campus, leading the way and carrying the flaming torch. At the end, students were invited to walk up, touch the torch and make a wish for peace.
“It helps children and adults to realize that peace is very natural to anyone of any age,” said DeAngelo.
For information, visit PeaceRun.org.
Published May 11, 2016