Students Who Work for Peace Honored in Fairfax County: Oak Hill, Herndon, Reston Areas

2019 Peace Awards Recipients

Students from 22 Fairfax County public schools have been named recipients of the 2019 Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County, designed to recognize young people who work as peacemakers. The 2019 recipients are:

  • Annandale High School: Kora Corker
  • Cedar Lane School: Nick Price
  • Centreville High School: Deepika Joshi
  • Chantilly High School: Annie Wang
  • Edison High School: Reem Ali
  • Fairfax High School: Lara Demir
  • Hayfield Secondary School: Delina Kiflom
  • Herndon High School: Lydia Goff
  • Langley High School: Sumaiya Haque
  • Lee High School: Oscar Manuel Lopez Hernandez,
  • Madison High School: Hannan Mumtaz
  • Marshall High School: Luka Gabitsinashvili
  • McLean High School: Neha Rana
  • Mount Vernon High School: Burhan Ahmed
  • Mountain View High School: Romina Soleimani
  • Quander Road School: Lauren Haymes
  • South Lakes High School: Sophia Liao
  • Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology: Angie Sohn
  • West Potomac High School: Diana Argueta
  • West Springfield High School: Laura Kirk
  • Westfield High School: Makee Neves
  • Woodson High School: Xuan Huynh

It’s not easy to be the peacemaker. Sometimes it is really hard, especially when you make those around you, even friends, angry when you speak out and stand up for what is right. And sometimes it can be dangerous. But in all instances, being the peacemaker “requires courage and commitment,” U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) told the crowd gathered at the Sherwood Community Center in Fairfax on Sunday, March 9.

Connolly, along with a host of sponsors, elected officials and a cheering collection of family and friends, had come together to honor the 23 young recipients of the 2019 Student Fairfax Peace Awards at a ceremony led by Margaret Fisher of program-founder Herndon Friends Meeting.

In addition to garnering kudos from the congressman, state Del. Ken Plum (D-36), Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross (Mason District), Scott Brabrand, Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent, and Karen Corbett Sanders, Mount Vernon District representative and vice chair of the FCPS board also officially offered their congratulations and admiration for the young activists.

Ryan McElveen and Ilryong Moon, members-at-large of the FCPS board, and Tamara Denerak Kaufax, FCPS board Lee District representative were also on hand to show their support.

THE EVENT’S KEYNOTE SPEAKER was David Swanson, an author, activist, journalist, radio host and co-founder and director of World Beyond War, a “global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.”

Swanson, a 1987 graduate of Herndon High School who identifies as a “world citizen,” presented his argument of “no justification for war, ever,” while admitting that his remarks could make his audiences uncomfortable, but asserted that they were words that need to be said and a conversation that needs to happen.

The Fairfax Student Peace Awards started in 2006 as one school, Herndon High School, and one sponsor, the Herndon Friends Meeting, but has grown to 19 sponsors and is now offered to every public high school in Fairfax County, as well as two private schools.

The goal of the program is to encourage young people to think more about peace “both as a means and as an end” and to recognize their achievements when they turn those peace-making thoughts into actions in their schools, their communities, and even around the world.

The program is open to area high school juniors and seniors. In October, each school is invited to choose either an individual or a group recipient with the guidelines that the students have worked “specifically for peace or to identify and resolve conflicts … demonstrating commitment to peace by engaging in activities that strive to end conflict … seeking to bridge language, ethnic, racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation, or class differences … and/or assist to resolve conflicts among students or members of the community who feel isolated or alienated.”

THE WINNERS received certificates of achievement, a monetary gift and an additional $100 to be donated to any nonprofit organization of the student’s choice that operates in a spirit that is in keeping with the Peace Awards and this year, an autographed copy of the book, “Sweet Fruits From The Bitter Tree” by Mark Andreas, stories of “creative and compassionate ways out of conflict.”

Read more about the Peace Awards and the recipients at www.fairfax.studentpeaceawards.org.

Area students who received Peace Awards include:

Herndon and Reston both saw students achieve the Peace Awards honor.

Lydia Goff, a Senior at Herndon High School, is the president of her school’s Best Buddies chapter, in which volunteers seek to foster genuine, one-on-one friendships between people with and without intellectual disabilities.

With 90 students registered in the program, Lydia stays busy organizing monthly social events, after-school meetings and one-on-one get togethers.

Last year, Herndon Best Buddies was selected as the Most Outstanding High School chapter in the Capital Region and Lydia was awarded the D.C. United Community Star Award in recognition of her service.

Kamila Elyazgi is a Senior at King Abdullah Academy, a private school in Herndon.

She formed a global charity club at her school called Project Humanity. A participant in the George Mason University Conflict Resolution Youth Summit and in the Capital Region Leadership Academy, Kamila has organized projects to raise funds and collect needed items for Sudanese children, Syrian child refugees, and victims of Hurricane Irma and the earthquake in Indonesia.

Last summer, Kamila met with the staffs of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly to advocate for U.S. border policy reform.

Sophia Liao, a senior at South Lakes High School in Reston, where she founded the Young Democrats Club, served on the Student Council, and represents South Lakes on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council.

Her organizational skills must be legendary, as she took the reins on a trip for 12 students to China to volunteer at a panda center. She also organized South Lakes’ participation in the National Walkout Day against gun violence last year.

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