Veterans for Peace announces public reading, reception for Peace Poetry Contest, Peace Scholarship Awards

by Gainesville Veterans for Peace

Veterans for Peace Gainesville Chapter 14 has announced the 8th Annual Public Reading and Reception of the Alachua  County Peace Poetry Contest and Peace Scholarship Awards.

On Saturday, May 20, 35 students from Alachua County schools will read their peace poems aloud at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship as winners of the 2017 Peace Poetry Contest.

The eighth annual Peace Poetry Contest began in January, inviting all K-12 students of Alachua County schools, both public and private, to submit one poem on what peace means to them. A team of community writers and poets judged the over 280 poems submitted, according to age group.

From those poems, 35 readers were chosen to perform their pieces on May 20, and will have their winning poems published in the 2017 Peace Poetry booklet. Winners also receive a gift certificate to a local bookstore.

Though this contest holds no formal position on the current state of world affairs, we still want to honor the ideal of peace through the perspectives of young people. Peace is a uniquely human conception and affirms the human spirit. It is especially important to remember that peace is not merely a goal but a human right. In that spirit of reflection, we are very pleased with the success of this year’s contest.

We would especially like to thank the many teachers who encourage their students to participate every year, and to all of the young poets who wrote such beautiful, moving poems.

Veterans for Peace will also be awarding three Peace Scholarships at the Peace Reception. VFP created these scholarships as a way to give financial support to students who are planning careers in pursuit of a more equitable, peaceful, and just world. The three selected winners have demonstrated commitment and leadership activities involving peace and social justice, conflict resolution and nonviolent social change. The winners of the scholarship are listed below:

Natalie Davis. Natalie is studying nursing at Santa Fe College and is enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant program. She is an active organizer with the Rural Women’s Health Project, is heavily involved in the organization’s HIV/AIDs prevention and treatment programs, and is a regional advocate for the National Building Leaders of Color program. Natalie has been a tremendous force in educating patients and health care professionals in understanding the causes of health disparities. Natalie’s long-term goal is to open a Community Outreach facility that will assist at-risk teens, homeless people and others earn their GED as a gateway to academic success and economic security.

Hayley Mathis. Hayley is studying nursing at Santa Fe College and she plans to pursue a career in pediatric nursing. She serves as the recording secretary of the Santa Fe College Nursing Student Association. In that capacity, she helps to build solidarity among student nurses across the state. She also coordinates community service volunteering activities in the Relay for Life, March of Dimes, early childhood education and other important fields. Hayley has talked extensively at area schools about the need for great diversity in the field of nursing as well as nursing as an occupation for minority and working class youth. Hayley also regularly volunteers in academic mentoring and after-school programs.

Molesha Perkins is a Santa Fe College Dual Enrollment student who plans to obtain degrees in early childhood education as well as chemistry to fulfill her dream of becoming a pharmacist. She is president of the local chapter of the National Achievers Honors Society and through this group she organizes community service projects such as FarmShare, a USDA program which provides food to people in need. Molesha also volunteers through her Girl Scouts troop both locally as well as internationally on issues including homelessness and food security. Molesha has been a leader in fundraisers to assist earthquake and hurricane victims in Haiti. She recently helped to coordinate the MLK Month of Service at Duval Elementary School.

This year’s reading will be held on Saturday, May 20, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville (4225 NW 34th St.), from 2pm to 4pm. The event will include inspiring readings by the student poets and music by Cathy Dewitt. Refreshments will be served after the program. The program is free and open to the public.

For more information on the 2017 Peace Poetry Reading and Peace scholarships, please contact the organizers at, or 831-334-0117. D

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