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North Hills students sending positive message with Peace Walk

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Students at North Hills Senior High School in Ross Township are asking people in the community to help raise awareness of discrimination and social injustice by participating in a Peace Walk from 10 a.m. to noon at Martorelli Stadium, which is along Route 19 in West View.

The walk will go on rain, shine or snow and will feature light refreshments and camaraderie, said Andrea Alban, a North Hills senior and student chairwoman for the event. The event, an initiative of the high school's Peer to Peer Empowerment club, Alban said, will be enjoyable and promote kindness.

“It's just one day for peace and no negativity or anything of that nature. There's just going to be positive energy all around,” said Alban, 17.

The event is sponsored by Crisis Center North, which developed Peer to Peer Empowerment clubs at North Hills and other nearby schools as a way to promote and educate students about developing healthy relationships with each other, said Leon Strimel, a prevention educator at Crisis Center North, located in the North Hills. Crisis Center North provides services for victims of domestic violence.

Strimel said student representatives of the Peer to Peer Empowerment clubs from local high schools meet a few times a year for workshops. Crisis Center North representatives ask the students to brainstorm about issues they want to address.

Alban said last year, the North Hills students had an event to address bullying and that it was a success. She said she is hoping for the same thing this year.

“It's about raising awareness that discrimination does happen. If you see something, stand up, and say something,” said Alban, of Ross Township.

Strimel said he encourages school administrators to let the students take care of most of the planning responsibilities, such as coming up with an idea, securing a location, advertising and community outreach.

Along with inviting students from their high school, Alban said, event organizers also reached out to the junior high, as well, by visiting homerooms to spread word about the Peace Walk. Students also invited various community organizations, such as the local NAACP, and churches of different denominations to participate.

Students also reached out to their counterparts at other high schools, such as Montour, Pine-Richland, North Allegheny and Woodland Hills, she said.

And everyone in the community is invited to come walk. All people have to do is show up.

Bonnie Ziff, a family and consumer science teacher at North Hills High School, is the club's administrative representative, and, Alban said, Ziff was good about providing advice and guidance. Also, Alban said, school staff members in general have been very supportive, as well as other school clubs, such as the National Honor Society which helped with organization.

Alban said donations, such as one from the high school choir, have helped pay for expenses.

At North Hills, the Peer to Peer Empowerment club is part of the school's Hands for Service Club, of which Alban has been a member for three years. School representatives for the Peer to Peer Empowerment club are selected by school staff, Alban said, and she was proud to have been chosen.

While the walk won't change the world, the message is important, Alban said.

“It will be really calming and really good exercise because we'll be walking for two hours,” she said.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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