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Student Competition Asks How Can We Promote Peace

By Caecilia Gotama

Jun 30, 2021

BRDG bridge to Connect, a nonprofit committed to supporting successful STEM careers for first-in-their-family college graduates, recently organized a Peace Essay Contest on “What can we do to promote peace.”

The contest was conducted in partnership with the Irvine chapter of Rotary Club International and the AVID program at the Orange County Department of Education, California.

As Nancy Vu eloquently states in her winning paper: “Whether it be listening to others share their stories or saving water, every person has the ability to change the world. As a Vietnamese proverb goes, “One tree alone can’t make a hill; three trees together make a high mountain.” Do not think that one small action can do nothing because small efforts united together can bring about unimaginable change. Peace will come at last.”

People are overwhelmed with information today and the always-on tool of technology, and so too often making time to create peace…even just to enjoy a meaningful moment of silence is pushed aside. Creating peace takes effort, but it’s available for everyone if we choose the right priorities. One choice by one person can lead to terrific change.

Students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) course, which is offered as an elective available to high school students throughout Orange County, were offered the opportunity to participate in the writing and presentation contest. AVID was implemented in 1992 and currently engages 30,000 students from 132 elementary and 118 middle and high schools from 18 districts, promoting a mission “to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.” Nearly 100 registrants responded, each vying for cash prizes totaling $2,900.

Contest winners successfully conducted three presentations and a one-hour discussion on their essay, also conducting Q & A sessions for the judges who were supplied by the Rotary.

The contest concluded in early June and the recipients of cash awards were:

  • 1st place: Nancy Vu, Garden Grove High School

  • 2nd: Henry Vu, Garden Grove High School

  • 3rd: Marilyn Pham, Santiago High School

There were (4) inspirational peace advocates that participated in this program:

  • Samantha Lumang and Michelle Clemente from "Teach Peace Build Peace" Movement, an NGO organization for Peace Education in the Philippines. Talked about the importance of Truth Telling.

  • Erdoan Shipoli, PhD a visiting scholar at Georgetown University (School for Foreign Service) and a member of Washington Institute for Leadership. Shared his experiences as a Muslim teenager during the Kosovo war of 1998.

  • Albert Bicol, a speaker on “Net-Zero” in Vancouver, Canada . Shared "How climate and peace are two sides of the same coin - How Climate Change can jeopardize Peace".

“This was an opportunity that naturally fit for all partner organizations,” said Caecilia Gotama, founder of BRDG and a Rotarian. “Similar to how we sometimes uncover a path to peace in our world, the competition evolved from common areas of interest and mutual benefit and then we made sure to engage our future leaders. It really made the experience special for everyone involved, and I’m hoping to find more opportunities in the future.”

To view the video for this Peace program Inspirations, see the follow videos: 

Visit  to see how you can be part of BRDG bridge to Connect community.

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