With the recently heightened level of student activism on-campus, the Peer Education And Community Empowerment (PEACE) program plans to help educate students about controversy surrounding racism, sexism and homophobia through upcoming instructional workshops.
“We’re basically a peer-to-peer education group,” said fourth-year community and regional development major and PEACE coordinator Kriti Garg. “We provide workshops and trainings for various student groups around campus and occasionally off-campus on issues of identity and anti-oppression, and how to work in solidarity with people.”
PEACE is housed in the Cross Cultural Center within the on-campus Student Community Center, and offers workshops in a variety of topics, including social justice, religion, and gender and sexuality.
“[There are] two ‘PEACE-ers’ at each workshop and every one has to do two or three workshops a quarter. We’re really flexible with it because some folks get involved in other things,” said third-year community and regional development and Spanish double major and PEACE coordinator Joanna Jaroszewska. “We usually offer workshops to people our age, [so] students. We want to offer PEACE workshops to student staffs — we’ve done it for the police academy on campus [and other groups].”
Student staff members who feel there is a need for instruction on a certain topic can visit the PEACE website and request which workshop they would like.
“The primary group that we work with is Student Housing,” Jaroszewska said. “You have people that are interested in learning, and they already have some kinds of goals and intentions for themselves and a personal investment in coming. The downside is you don’t have the people that need it. There are people that would really benefit a lot from a PEACE workshop and they don’t show up because they’re afraid of it or they don’t know what it is.”
PEACE is comprised of student staff who work at meetings every Wednesday to tackle subjects of social justice and discuss the best way of communicating these issues to the student population at UC Davis.
“PEACE has some extremely high-functioning, passionate students to where there isn’t a whole lot of micromanaging with it,” said PEACE director Daniel Cardenas. “Now that there’s conversation about what … PEACE [will] look like in the future, [I] help guide some of those conversations, but again the ‘PEACE-rs’ have such a passion for the things that they do as volunteers.”
Although the group plans to continue to be peer educators for the campus, PEACE is currently in discussion over developments within the organization in order to make their purpose clearer and more accessible to the student community.
“PEACE is still going to be PEACE,” Cardenas said. “We want to take a critical look at those workshops and figure out how we’re going to evolve [them] and really meet the needs of students at UC Davis, and then communicate those accurately and make it so it’s accessible.”
Jaroszewska became a coordinator at the beginning of Fall Quarter 2014, deciding then that there should be some necessary changes to how PEACE reaches out to university students.
“I was asked to step up to the position and that’s when I sort of started seeing more of a vision and seeing what could I do with PEACE that hasn’t been done yet,” Jaroszewska said. “That’s been my life since then — just [asking] how can we make it better, improve on what we have, not just run with the status quo.”
Garg, who has been a PEACE volunteer for three years now, ensures the workshops are a comfortable atmosphere that have potential to reach new heights in conversation that a classroom setting is incapable of.
“PEACE is about having those uncomfortable dialogues to help people feel more comfortable as a whole,” Garg said. “I think PEACE is really critical to campus climate and making students feel welcome. It’s very difficult for students to interact with peers when their peers, either intentionally or unintentionally, aren’t being inclusive.”