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By Miriam Raftery

Evelyn Ponce, 9, receives Peace Award from La Mesa-Sunrise Rotary Club President David Roberts

(Miriam Raftery)

March 8, 2009 (La Mesa) — The La Mesa Sunrise Rotary chapter has presented its Peacemaker of the Year Award to Evelyn (Evy) Ponce, a nine-year-old student at Lexington Elementary School in El Cajon to honor her "œoutstanding work" with Peace Patrol and Bullies Beware. "She is a gifted and dedicated student with an incredible ability for peace," said Rotary president Dave Roberts.

A trainer of peace patrollers who came to America just two years ago, Ponce is now translating Primary Peacemakers lessons into Spanish and has personally intervened to prevent bullying in her neighborhood. Ponce is the first child to be honored with the annual award.

Dr. Carol Macagba, M.D., Occupational Health at Sharp, aunt of dead Santana student

(Bill Pogue)

"I had a dream and a vision," said Peace Patrol founder Mary Eden Steele, a former teacher who founded and now serves as executive director of Interactions for Peace. "All of us need to work together, whether we are little children or grandmas and grandpas. Now we have programs from pre-school through adults."

Interactions for Peace includes Peace Patrol, Bullies Beware, Primary Peacemakers for primary schools, and Middle School Mediators. Dr. Carol Lynn Macagba, M.D., recently established a Peace Patrol in the Philippines in honor of her nephew, Bryan Mcagba Zucher, who was killed in the March 5, 2001 shooting at Santana High School. The shooter, Charles Andrew Williams, was 14 years old at the time. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for killing two students and wounding 13 other people. Williams, who had been bullied in school before the shooting, is now 22 and was recently transferred to a maximum-security prison for adults.


Peace Patrol founder Nancy Eden Steele accepts $200 donation from Rotary President David Roberts

(Bill Pogue)

Speaking at the Rotary awards ceremony, Macagba recalled the pain of having to identify her nephew's remains at the morgue after the shooting. "It changed the lives of my sister's son, her family, and fourteen other families in East County," she recalled, "and all the school district could say was that it was not their responsibility--the death of innocent life compels us to want to do something to protect other children from violence, whether they are the victims or the killers," said Macagba. "I saw that pain can be transformed into peace."

Violence in both children and adults is rooted in loss of respect for the value of life, she believes. "We need to uphold the value of life and teach the language of peace," she said. "This program is based on self-respect and respect for others."

Peace Patrol founder Nancy Eden Steele accepts $200 donation from Rotary President David Roberts

(Miriam Raftery )

Determining that her nephew's death should not be in vain, Macagba, an occupational medicine physician, she has since established a Peace Patrol program n the Philippines and hopes to bring Evelyn Ponce to help train students there. "I want this to be a model for the Philippines and to introduce it into other schools in Asia," said Macagba, who seeks help for the Peace Patrol program "not only for schools in America, but throughout the world...We can become the peacemakers in our own families and schools. My dream is to bring Peaace Patrol to every school in the world."

Ponce's parents, Francisco and Maria Ponce, and her grandfather were on hand for the awards ceremony, along with principal Sylvia Casas-Workman and Vice Principal/Peace Patrol coordinator Valerie Lynch. Peace Patrol teacher Kim Stricker, recipient of last year's Peace Award, will take Peace Patrol students to the Midway in April, along with foster children from Casa de Amparo.

Speaking at the Rotary event, Ponce described using intervention skills she has learned to stop bullying in her own apartment complex. "My friend and I were playing on her porch when a little girl came," she recalled. "My friend said she can't play on her porch and was chasing her. I made her laugh, and she forgot all about it."

The La Mesa Sunrise-Rotary Chapter is designated as a Pathway to Peace chapter--and is the only Peace Alliance Rotary chapter in the U.S. Chapter president Roberts concluded, "International Peace starts within each one of us."

For more information on the peace programs in this story, visit www.interactionsforpeace.org.

For information on La Mesa Sunrise Rotary, visit http://www.lamesasunriserotary.org/.