Our Club was proud to send a representative to the Rotary International Peace Conference a few weeks ago in Ontario, California. Shalisa Pierce, the Chair of our Peace Builder committee, spoke briefly to our Club last week about her experience. She learned so much, she hardly knew what to touch upon in just a few minutes. But she was especially inspired by one of the keynote speakers, Fr. Greg Boyle. He is a 51-year old Jesuit priest with a Santa Claus beard and a friendly face. He’s the founder and Executive Director of Home Boy Industries in Los Angeles.
The mission of Home Boy Industries is to restore hope to former gang members, many of whom have been incarcerated. These individuals have a very high risk of repeating the destructive patterns that led them astray in the beginning. Home Boy intervenes, using the power of relationship. They also teach specific skills, and offer counseling and parenting classes. Their business model is to train individuals to enter the work force with employable skills. They run a number of for-profit enterprises like a silkscreen printer and a bakery. More information about this project is available at their excellent website.
Many of us don’t think of Salem, Oregon as having a gang problem. But, there are gangs active here. And there are many disenfranchised youth who have lost hope, dropped out of high school, or ended up in jail. As a Rotarian, I am very proud of the many ways we have helped the youth in our community through our good works.
This year’s project is part of the series of tangible improvements we’ve provided to the City over the years. We’re going to help the Salem Area Trail Alliance build a kids’ bike track within the city limits. What’s important about a bike track? It is a small contribution to the physical health of these kids, and to their positive self-image and their self-esteem. It can be enjoyed by kids from every walk of life. After all, we know that children’s play is children’s work.
The ideal of international peace is so abstract, an individual hardly knows where to begin. Let’s begin in our own community, with our own children, with the simple gift of a fun play space for kids to enjoy.
This week’s program: The Mike McLaren Center for Student Success is one of the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation’s most ambitious projects to date. Dedicated to the legacy of Mike McLaren, a member of our club and an active community leader who died suddenly in March 2013, the Center will provide a comprehensive array of resources and support to help students and their families navigate the pathway beyond graduation. The college and career center will be housed in the completely renovated historic Starkey-McCully building in downtown Salem. Krina Lee, SKEF’s executive director, will be our guest speaker to detail plans for the Center. She will also host an on-site visit to the new SKEF facility – still undergoing renovation – at 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., on Wednesday, January 27.