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Star Tribune - Third grader helps promote peace

posted Nov 12, 2014, 6:40 PM by Dan Thiede   [ updated Nov 12, 2014, 6:42 PM ]
Article by: Katy Read, Star Tribune. Updated: November 12, 2014 at 10:28am.

Student spreads the message of ‘love and joy.’

Joey McLeister, Special to the Star Tribune, North St. Paul, MN October 14, 2014
Jaelyn Lende remembers a time, way back in kindergarten, when she didn’t have many friends. She wasn’t shy — in fact, she’d walk right up to other kids and start talking. Yet sometimes she felt ignored, maybe even bullied a little.

Eventually, she figured out better ways to approach potential friends. Now a third-grader, Jaelyn’s social challenges are long in the past.

“I have like seven best friends,” said the North St. Paul 8-year-old. “I just try to be nice to everyone. I try to be peaceful with everyone.”

But Jaelyn remembers what it felt like to be left out. So when she sees a classmate being bullied or ignored, she steps up. When two kids disagree, she tries to negotiate it in a friendly way. When she sees people needing help, she’ll hold open doors for them. If a kid’s getting picked on or ignored, she’ll approach her and invite her to hang out at lunch or recess. If a problem persists, she’ll talk with her family about ways to handle it.

Often, Jaelyn uses strategies she learned through working with her peace group at Cowen Elementary School.

“It’s made an impact in every area of her life,” said her dad, Jamie Lende. “She’s pretty amazing.”

The peace-group program was organized at Cowen by teachers who attended training through World Citizen, a St. Paul-based organization that creates “peace sites” in schools, churches, businesses and even homes to encourage and teach peaceful behavior.

The program has been a great resource for Jaelyn, who is dedicated to spreading peace. She thinks about the connection between how kids interact at school and how adults get along in the world.

“This probably will never happen, but I hope that someday there will be world peace,” she said, though acknowledged that “there’s always people who want to keep fighting.”

But she figures the approaches she’s learning in school might be helpful to governments and other groups with disagreements.

“They could reach out and try to help other people,” Jaelyn said. “Maybe one of us could start helping the other and see if we could make an influence and see if we could get along.”

Jaelyn loves to write and draw. A few years ago she created a picture book titled “The Love and Peace Book,” expressing her thoughts about peace, love, happiness, friends, family.

“Peace is love and joy mixt together,” reads one page, for example.

Of course, Jaelyn’s spelling has improved since then. But her belief in the message hasn’t changed.