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The Wellsprings “Peace and Justice Festival” evolved out of a fall, 2000 class called “Social Problems and Peacemaking” offered by part-time teacher Angie Chisholm. Emphasizing the engagement of young people in matters of peace and social justice, the handful of students in that class organized the first Peace and Justice Festival held in December that year. There were presentations by community members and a panel discussion that included Wellsprings students.

As part of that first Festival, the students had organized an essay writing contest for middle-school students and then presented an award at the Festival. Also part of the Festival was lots of music, provided by Wellsprings students as well as a local folksinger, and lots of organic food. Thus a tradition was started, and every Peace and Justice Festival since has included some mix of those elements along with new things. One year, a giant papier-mache peace dove was constructed at the Festival and subsequently shipped to the White House. (Mr. Bush’s staff declined delivery.)

The class had studied a wide range of topics—such as poverty in Appalachia, women in prisons, the School of the Americas, the origins of violence—with an emphasis on personal responses to injustice. One example of the latter is that the class members corresponded with a young mother in prison, whose case was complicated but strongly suggestive of her actual innocence or, at least, inappropriate sentencing.

A similar class has been frequently offered by school head Dennis Hoerner, and usually three or four students have been the core group working to organize the Festival. Each year as the date approached, many more students get behind the core group to help out with the logistics required to make it happen. Every year, a hundred or more people from the community come to Wellsprings to attend the Festival. It is a time to learn about injustices and nonviolent solutions; a time to act; a time to come together and celebrate the inner light in everyone; a time to assert our individual and collective commitments to bringing about a better world.