First, let me introduce myself. My name is Maddy Dragich and I am currently teaching 10th grade geometry in Stuttgart, Arkansas. I am originally from Arden Hills, MN, and I just graduated in May 2011 from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University (CSB/SJU). In college, I majored in Peace Studies and French. People are often confused by what it means to major in Peace Studies.. Well, let me give you a quick summary. To me and many of my peers, the field of Peace Studies is an in-depth exploration of the history of war and how our past can help us to prepare for peace in our future.
Now that I re-read that last sentence, I realize that you might be thinking that it sounds a bit idealistic… well in many respects you might be right. However, I would argue that without a bit of idealism, how could we attain the vision we want for the world? This question brings to mind a project that all senior Peace Studies majors were required to complete at CSB/SJU: a future studies project. Our task for our senior seminar was to identify a current issue/challenge/problem in the world and then write a paper from the year 2041 outlining how we spent the past 30 years addressing the challenge and ultimately created a more peaceful and just world.
After participating in brainstorm sessions, guided meditations, and reading about the invention of future studies projects, I came to the conclusion that I was going to create peace in the future through the implementation of backyard mini farms. Each household across the U.S. would attain 60% of their food from their own backyard or a community garden located in a 2 mile radius of their house. I will spare you the 20 page paper details of how this was accomplished (for the time being), but the entire process led to many sleepless nights and even more arguments with my roommates about whether or not it was a good idea for each household to have 4 hens in a small coop in their backyard.
On the day that our seminar presented our projects to one another, I discovered that my project idea was almost identical to two of my peers, Casey Wojtalewicz and Chris Morgan. After we all finished presenting, I remember talking with the two of them and agreeing how powerful of a team we could be in the future when our projects and ideas cross paths.
Fast forward to January 2012: I was teaching high school geometry in Stuttgart, Arkansas, Chris Morgan was volunteering with the Vincentian Volunteer Corps in Denver, and Casey Wojtalewicz was working as an intern for the Sierra Club in LA. On January 5th the three of us were reunited at the Grand Aspirations / Summer of Solutions winter training session for program leaders who are going to lead Summer of Solutions programs in various cities around the country this summer. Throughout the training, Chris, Casey and I developed our plans to work with a group of young Solutionaries (teams of individuals who focus on creating holistic solutions to local economic, environmental and social challenges) this summer to raise awareness about and create positive change in our communities concerning environmental justice. All three of our projects will address small scale agriculture and energy usage in our communities. We suddenly came to the realization that we were taking the first step towards accomplishing our Peace Studies project goals that we had written about only seven months before.
At the training it became clear to me that idealism is really only something that exists in the minds of the unimaginative. Sure, when we wrote our project ideas, the future seemed somewhat idealistic. However, when you commit yourself to a future goal and have peers to support you in this goal, the sky is truly the limit. I look forward to writing future blog posts about the progress of our Summer of Solutions project in Stuttgart and to hear more about the other projects around the country!
Peace and Love to the Dreamers.