Partnership to present international peace symposium

Published 11:54 am Thursday, July 18, 2019

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By Beth Alston


AMERICUS — A partnership between Furlow Charter School, the Georgia Department of Education World Languages and Global Initiatives, Chattahoochee-Flint RESA, and global business people in the local community will host the 2019 Jubilee International Symposium on Oct. 9 at Habitat for Humanity Global Village. This is made possible through the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation of Rockville, Md. Laura Bauer of Americus, executive director of the foundation, has been instrumental in introducing Furlow Charter School to the peace certification process, the school being the first in Georgia to be certified. The name of the symposium comes from the Jubilee International Studies Club at Furlow, with JoAnna Arnold as advisor. The club has a relationship with Academie La Saline in Gonaives, Haiti, and work is progressing in getting that school peace certified.

Arnold, who is proficient in French and Spanish, said that Furlow Charter School encourages critical thinking and multi-disciplinary learning through an active and engaging project-based education. She said the school is deeply committed to fostering academic excellence, cultural awareness, and social responsibility through family and community involvement in the development of life-long learners. To achieve this, Furlow’s curriculum includes service learning as well as foreign language education in French and Spanish beginning in kindergarten.

“As the Service Learning coordinator for our school, I have researched elementary, secondary, and post-secondary service learning courses and programs around the United States,” she said. “The underlying theme of this research is the desire for educational institutions to challenge our youth to become critical and creative thinkers who can communicate effectively as they interact with diverse audiences. As Dean and language teacher, I want to educate globally and culturally competent scholars who can improve the world around them. Service learning and foreign language at Furlow provide scholars this foundation to prepare them for productive life after school.”

The late Mattie Stepanek was a visionary poet, peacemaker, and philosopher, who, although young and battling a rare disorder, brought joy and peace to the world with his inspirational poems and messages of peace that attest to his “old soul.” Long a favorite guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show and a personal friend, the young man captured the hearts and minds of millions around the globe. He published seven best-selling books of poetry and peace essays. He died at age 13 in 2004. His hero, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, said in his eulogy of Stepanek, that he was “the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known.”

JoAnna Arnold explained that Mattie Stepanek’s message of peace easily fits into Furlow’s service learning program. “Our service learning goal at Furlow is to produce opportunities for our students to understand how to help others,” she said. “Mattie believed that peace can be taught through education using methods that promote citizenship, social responsibility, and reflection. Pathways to Peace, the signature initiative of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, and developed by his mother Jeni, a Ph.D. in special education at the University of Maryland, explores key elements of the message shared through Mattie’s books, speeches, and conversations. In order for our scholars at Furlow Charter School  to learn how best to help others, they must learn to experience peace within themselves. We will show students how to use their foreign language talents to go throughout the world as ambassadors of peace.”

Jeni Stepanek, works tirelessly to continue her son’s legacy through The Mattie J. T. Stepanek Foundation. The foundation’s mission states the desire to “further Mattie’s message of hope and peace by:

  • Providing access to the message;
  • Promoting understanding of how to apply that message to one’s self, to the community, and to the world; and
  • Motivating people to action in sharing that message.”

Mattie’s message is a simple and inspirational message that resonates with children and adults. It is “a legacy of hope and peace, guided by a simple, clear, and achievable message rooted in personal and purposeful choices in attitudes, words, and actions.” It inspires Furlow students to look towards a future with the calm confidence of hope.

Jeni Stepanek will give the keynote address at the Oct. 9 symposium in Americus.


About the symposium

The inaugural 2019 Jubilee International Symposium is the first of a kind symposium focusing on the importance of global learning, world language education, global workforce needs, and the importance of intercultural competence in today’s world. This event will feature a variety of speakers on various topics including national, state, and local opportunities to become engaged in global education, how to partner with local, national, state, and international organizations to enhance cross-cultural education in the classroom, and how to implement service learning models and opportunities in the world language classroom.


For tickets to the symposium, scheduled from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Oct. 9 at 721 W. Church St., Americus, visit