Inspirational Messages of Peace Contest blends university and community outreach


Dozens of Stockton Unified School District students have embarked on the annual Messages of Peace Contest that is sponsored by a unique, community-minded Stockton organization with support and funding from University of the Pacific.

In partnership with the International World Peace Rose Gardens, the University Park World Rose Peace Garden in Stockton, led by Director Sandy Huber, sponsors the annual contest. Students are immersed in training about effective writing before penning their messages on world peace. This year’s theme is “positive attitude.”

“We are taking all of these collective ideas and blending them into a tapestry of peace,” said Huber, from The Grupe Huber Company.

Almost 50 Hamilton Middle School students took part in a pre-writing kickoff event, held virtually on Feb. 11. Students from Pacific’s Community Involvement Program served as discussion leaders. They met with SUSD students in virtual breakout rooms to discuss possible topics and how to write with power and impact.

“This is a wonderful event and I enjoy taking part and working with the students,” said CIP student Jarrod Vargas ’21.

The staff of the Pacific’s William Knox Holt Memorial Library and Learning Center handled the logistics for the event, setting up the virtual gathering format, compiling videos and more. The pre-writing workshop was funded for the second consecutive year by a grant from the university’s Beyond Our Gates program.

Students from first through 12th grade who attend Hamilton, Monroe Elementary and Pittman Charter Schools will participate in the contest by writing a short, poetic thought in 35 words or less about peace. After several layers of judging, winning Inspirational Messages of Peace will be selected in March.

Twelve finalists from each school will receive a certificate and commemorative t-shirt. The top four from each school will receive a certificate, t-shirt, medal, and their Inspirational Messages of Peace engraved on a plaque in the University Park World Peace Rose Garden in Stockton. The Stockton Police Department and the International World Peace Rose Garden judges will each select one Inspirational Message of Peace to be engraved on a plaque in their respective rose gardens.

Later in 2021, winners will be honored at an open house ceremony with the unveiling of 12 plaques placed in the University Park World Peace Rose Garden in Stockton, along with one winning plaque placed in the Stockton Police Department Ambassador Garden.

In addition, another winning plaque placed in the University Park sister garden at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” World Peace Rose Garden in Atlanta, Georgia (with a potential flight to Atlanta, Georgia for their unveiling). The winners will be asked to read their messages at each event.

“Thank you for the positivity towards Hamilton, and so many kudos to both our students and our school's astounding program specialist, Lori Arzadon,” said Dr. Esther Perez, principal of Hamilton School. “Thank you for helping our students participate in this wonderful event."