Parents for Peace


Jennifer Fowler, Editor-in-Cheif

Community-ConnectionParents for Peace group offers encouragement to students and staff on the first day of school

By Jennifer Fowler/Editor-in-Cheif

Most of August in St. Louis was subject to an outburst of media, riots and protests. For weeks, the streets in North County, particularly West Florissant, were dotted with hundreds of people and news vans overflowing with reporters. Turmoil and chaos are simply understatements, as this event is now simply referred to as ‘’Ferguson’’ or ‘’Mike Brown,’’ alluding to the fatal shooting of the 18-year-old on Aug. 9.
In the midst of the unrest in Ferguson, surrounding school districts made the decision to cancel school, with Ferguson-Florissant deciding to postpone the start of classes for two weeks. This left students, parents and teachers alike disappointed, their excitement completely diminished. While some might have jumped at the opportunity for an extended summer break, some members of the community thought it’d be better to help students get a jumpstart on school.
Carrie Pace decided to spend her days off at the Ferguson Municipal Library, tutoring students. ‘‘It was ‘makeshift’ school that was set up to serve the purpose of giving our Ferg-Flor students a chance to still be learning in a controlled, safe environment while school was out,’’ Pace, who is an art teacher at Walnut Grove Elementary School, said. She happily welcomed students in from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with lessons ranging from English, math, to arts and crafts. Pace named the program School of Peace, and was aided by several volunteers as well as donations.
‘‘It was successful in that it provided a place for families to take their children so they could still be learning,’’ Pace said. ‘‘It was also successful in the way it shone some more positive light in the Ferguson area while there was so much negative media coverage.’’
Working closely beside Pace was Melissa Fitzgerald, a concerned parent and the creator of Parents for Peace. Parents for Peace is a community-based organization that started on Facebook with about 2,500 members. It was initially started by Fitzgerald as encouragement for students on their first day back, by placing signs with words of support and positivity in front of Ferguson-Florissant schools.
“I thought of the idea of signs as almost like a pep rally outside the schools,” Fitzgerald said. “I started a group and invited my Ferguson-Florissant school district friends. They started inviting their friends and it just spread throughout the community and beyond.”
Fitzgerald also started the group because she felt that the start of every school year should come with “hope and excitement.’’ The group has received acclaim from its members, with widespread recognition.
“I heard from a lot of members that it served a tangible, positive way they could have an impact on our community when times were feeling very hopeless.”
Fitzgerald said Parents for Peace was started originally to organize signs with uplifting messages for each school. She plans to keep the group ongoing as long as people express interest.
“It has turned into a central location for people to share resources and opportunities,” Fitzgerald said. “It has also continued to be a place for great discussion and sharing. I’m not exactly sure what it will look like going forward. I hope the group will be a part of things that inspire pride in our community and in our students.”