Editor’s Note: The Eastside On the Ground Community Contributor Program includes three youth contributors, two of whom are rising juniors at Loy Norrix and one who is a recent graduate of Phoenix High School. All three participated in a month-long training course during which elements of journalism, interview etiquette, and revision were discussed and practiced. Each youth contributor chose to write about an aspect of Peace House, an intentional community on the Eastside whose mission is to “nurture the next generation of peacemakers.”
The Evolution of Me: My Peace House Experience, by Gary Luckett
Ever since I was seven years old, Peace House has been my second home. When I first heard about Peace House from my grandmother’s friend, I thought it would be just like the Boys and Girls Club. But Peace House is more than a club. At Peace House kids have fun and learn something new every day. Coming here helps people avoid drama. Pease House has been part of the evolution of me.
Growing up the Eastside, I have become attached to this place. I have learned so much here. The Peace House families have taught me how to be a good role model and a good leader.
I realized this was my second home is when Jerry (Mechtenberg-Berrigan) walked up to me and said, “Welcome to Peace House. I’m Jerry.” Then he introduced me to everyone. They were all incredibly nice and loving. That’s when I knew that I fit in. I remember when Jerry said, “Hey, Gary, you want to play basketball?” and I jumped up in excitement. That is a memory I will never forget.
Community Correspondent Gary Luckett
Over the years my new experiences at Peace House taught me a new way of life. I learned that there is peace in this world and that we should embrace that peace. As the program evolved, more kids started coming. The idea of Peace House has always been to spread the message of peace. It helps pull kids into a positive environment if they don’t have one. Now that I’m 17, I’ve seen and learned so much here and I love sharing my experience. I want to help the next generation by spreading the message of peace. Violence is never the answer and that’s why we have Peace House to pull people out. I can’t tell you how blessed I am to be a part of this family.
My favorite memory about Peace House was when Jerry said to me, “Son, I see a lot of potential in you and that you have a very good heart.” Immediately, I dropped my backpack, my coat and took my boots off and hugged him because I had never heard that before. I felt like I was in another world where people were so nice and loving. I also remember Molly (Mechtenberg-Berrigan) saying, “Gary, you will be the future of Peace House and you will be one to spread peace everywhere, not just in Kalamazoo.” And that touched my heart like never before. I smiled. From that day on, I knew Peace House would change my life. And it did. Starting with those words.
The adults who come here are grateful to be here because they also want to help spread the message of peace. And new kids who come are welcomed with the same spirit. I’m glad that Kalamazoo has a place that wants to spread peace to others. Peace House has been nothing but supportive of everyone here. It’s a blessing that we have this organization in the Eastside neighborhood.
Jerry, Mike (DeWaele), Molly and Jen (DeWaele) are the backbone of this whole thing and without them, none of this would be possible. So I want to say thank you. They have been by my side since my first day here. I just know one thing for sure. I love coming to this place and I encourage everybody to come to Peace House.
Gary Luckett, 17, is the oldest of three. He attends Loy Norrix High School and is in the 11th grade. He enjoys football and other sports. He can do extraordinary things.
Peace House benefits youth and parents, by Bahiyyah Daniels
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear community center? Kids, right?
But the question pops up in every conversation with parents at Peace House events, “What made you send your children to Peace House?”
Peace House is a local community center on the lower east side in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Many children come to Peace House during the school year to get extra help on homework and other activities.
Community Correspondent Bahiyyah Daniels
I’ve been coming to Peace House for almost four years. During the time I started, I was a part of the Peace House Book Club. Later I joined the Youth Advisory, which is a group of teenagers who give their feedback on Peace House projects, improvements, and current events.
Each year about 50 youth come to Peace House. After being involved for so long, I started to wonder how did the parents learn about Peace House? What made them trust Peace House with their children? Since we all have those questions circling our mind. I decided to ask a few parents about those tricky questions.
Sherry Anderson sends her granddaughter KaNavea who is ten years old to Peace House. Ms. Sherry describes her granddaughter as a very sweet, playful child who loves making friends. KaNavea’s grandmother has seen many improvements in KaNavea since she has been coming to Peace House.
“She walks away from trouble,” says Ms. Sherry. “She has improved in many subjects.”
Ms. Sherry found about Peace House from a flier. Before KaNavea started attending Peace House, she was having problems in subjects at school. Her grandmother says she would try something once and never return. Today she has been attending the Peace House for at least four years.
Ms. Sherry loves the staff at Peace House. She expects her granddaughter to “give her best effort to whatever she does “
Ms. Sherry loves that KaNavea is involved in Arts and Crafts, Reading Porch, Talent Show and that she helps with outside projects.
The next parent I spoke to was my own. Her name is Eunice Arlene Alexander and her child (ME) is Bahiyyah Marguerite Daniels who is 17 years old. My mom describes me as a hardworking and sweet person. She says she has seen KaNavea and her grandmother Sherry Anderson appreciate Peace House.
improvements in my homework since I have been involved with Peace House. My mom heard about Peace House when I ran home with a flyer. Before Peace House, I wasn't paying attention in my classes or doing classwork. An expectation she has for me is “to be great at whatever I choose”
In the summer, I’m at Peace House every day. The Summer program is just as important as the afterschool program. The summer kids still get help with improving reading and math scores through games and projects. For the upcoming school year, children of all ages bond over the activities Peace House holds each and every single day such as playing gaga ball or in the sandbox and making box cars and paper flowers.
After a long day at Peace House when children have been drained from all that energy used throughout the day, they walk home with tired bones and a backpack filled with finished homework. They go home to return again another day and learn another minute here at Peace House.
After interviewing a couple of parents, I have a better idea about why parents send their children to Peace House. They trust Mike, Jen, Jerry, and Molly with their kids by helping them be the best they can be. They encourage the shine and smarts out of them. They help them build courage to fight the everyday problems they may face when they get older. They get them out of their comfort zone and make them try new things and reach new heights. They help them make a better them one day at a time.
Bahiyyah Daniels, 17, is a senior at Phoenix High School. She enjoys traveling the world seeing new things. She’s very friendly and funny.
A move to the Eastside brought unexpected peace, by Jermaine McClellan
When I was in third grade, I moved to the Eastside. My first thoughts were that I wasn’t going to make any friends at my new school and that the Eastside had a lot of busy roads, which scared me at the time. Living on the Eastside was a lot different from living in my previous neighborhood. In my old neighborhood, I witnessed a lot of bad things, such as house fires, gang activity, and lots of poverty. The Eastside had similar crime and gang activity, but it has a more chill vibe and lots of parks around to meet new people and explore more things.
Community Correspondent Jermaine McClellan works on a story for the On the Ground Community Correspondents Academy.
In fourth grade, I learned about Peace House through a couple of friends from my neighborhood. They were all telling me how great the program was and how fun it was so I had to check it out. My first time at Peace House was amazing. My siblings and I felt very welcomed and the Peace House families accepted us with open arms.
After that first day, I started going more and more because of the vibe I felt from the workers and the way they treated me and my siblings. I liked how they pushed me academically and supported me athletically. During one time in my life, I was confused on what sport to play so I went to Jerry Berrigan and he said, “I can see you as a great soccer player in the future” due to my footwork and speed. This pushed me to try a new sport and I fell in love with it.
Peace House hasn’t only benefited me and my siblings, it has also benefited the Eastside community in many ways. Shamika Williams, a parent, says, “Not only do they help my kids stay on track in school, they also provide hats, gloves, and coats in the wintertime to the Peace House kids and families.” A lot of people don’t have resources like that and giving supplies takes a weight of the parent’s shoulders.
Another way Peace House benefits the community is by providing backpacks filled to the top with school supplies every year in August. Andrena Stroman, a Peace House parent, says, “It’s great that they give out school supplies every year because that shows that they really care about the kids and want them to succeed in school.”
It’s been eight years since I first attended Peace House and I am still involved. Currently, I am in a group called Y.A.B., which stands for young and beautiful. It’s a group of high schoolers and a few graduates who help with Peace House programs year round. Peace House has affected my future because it got me into liking animals, which has made me want to become a veterinarian if basketball doesn’t work out. Regardless of what I do, I know Peace House will accept me and support my choices 110 percent.
Jermaine McClellan is a 16-year-old basketball player who attends Loy Norrix High School. He’s very funny, loves animals, and wants to go to Duke to be a veterinarian.