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SMC pupil learns about peace

Alicia Smith | Wednesday, January 13, 2010

 Peace does not just encompass nonviolence, according to a Saint Mary’s student who’s worked with the Indianapolis Peace Institute (IPI). College sophomore Cat Cleary said that through her work she discovered what a peaceful world entails.

“I think that a big part of their (IPI’s) thing is sharing with students and helping them experience different opportunities of peacemaking,” Cleary said.
“One of their missions is to tell people that peace is more than just the absence of war and conflict. It’s about building healthy communities, it’s about promoting nonviolence, but it’s about so much more than that,” Cleary said.
The IPI Web site said the Institute offers a variety of opportunities for college students, including an undergraduate semester program, a summer urban experience, alternative spring and fall breaks and weekend workshops. 
Cleary participated in an alternative spring break program as well as an alternative Thanksgiving break program. She also returned to the Institute in early January to assist with another trip.
“This past week, I was asked to come back to the Institute and co-facilitate another Women’s Issues and Urban Environments trip. So there were groups from other colleges that I was able to assist and help because I had already taken the trip,” she said.
Each trip focuses on a different topic. During her spring break trip, Cleary learned about women’s issues. For Thanksgiving she helped package and serve meals to 41,000 people who were hungry on Thanksgiving. 
“It’s a service learning experience. There’s a mix of speakers and direct service work and visiting of different sites such as a domestic violence center, a daycare for low-income families, things like that. It’s a combined experience with seeing and doing and hearing,” Cleary said.
Another spring break trip will be offered to students this academic year similar to the one Cleary experienced in 2009.
“This coming spring they’re going to offer another alternative spring break trip on Women’s Issues and Urban Environments, another trip with similar sites and projects. I believe [students will] be receiving e-mails, but someone from the Institute is coming to share more about it to get people interested,” she said.
Cleary said she hopes to participate in an internship program in during the coming summer. 
“They set you up with a couple options for an internship and their whole thing is they don’t just want you just getting coffee, that’s not the kind of internship they’re setting up,” Cleary said.
“You develop a project with a mentor at whatever organization or site you are at and then you work towards that for the whole summer. It’s a pretty innovative experience,” she said.
Cleary became involved with IPI when she decided to take the alternative spring break trip in 2009. Cleary said the trip was so meaningful that she changed her major. 
“Probably what the most powerful thing is that because of learning about these women’s issues, I actually changed my major.  So it was quite a powerful experience. I originally did it because of my interest in social justice, but now its more out of my interest in the issues affecting women,” she said.