CSB student receives national award for local peacemaking initiative

Categories: Around the Diocese

Nov. 22, 2013, edition
By Danielle Liebl
For The Visitor

On Oct. 6, I awaited the email of actresses America Ferrera and Rashida Jones, announcing the inaugural Peace First Prize winners. However, once I received it, I was in shock and disbelief — my name was among the 10 winners.

Each of us who won will receive a two-year, $50,000 fellowship to further our peacemaking work. It’s been a six-month process from when I was nominated; I was one of 700 people initially nominated for the award.

daniellelieblThe Peace First Prize is a national award recognizing leading youth peacemakers who are focused on creating peaceful schools and communities.

The grant will help to expand the student club, Students for the Advancement of People with DIFFERbilities, which I founded and created as a sophomore at the College of St. Benedict and St, John’s University (I’m now a senior).

The purpose of Students for the Advancement of People with DIFFERbilities is to raise awareness for people with disabilities, promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities and to educate students and faculty on the CSB and SJU campuses about better ways to treat, interact and build relationships with people with disabilities. The club offers many ways to achieve this mission and is encouraging CSB and SJU students to participate in several opportunities to play, work and interact with people with disabilities in settings of controlled exposure.

Students for the Advancement of People with DIFFERbilities started in the fall of 2011, when a classmate and I realized the barriers of people with disabilities and the social exclusion they faced. We decided to take action at St. Ben’s and St. John’s campuses by creating a club that was affiliated with Special Olympics Minnesota. Its original idea was to promote this purpose through events and campaigns such as the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign™, and disabilities week.

However, we found greater potential of the club, promoting inclusion in a very direct way. In 2012, the club introduced new initiatives — the Young Athletes Program™, Unified Sports Program®, Special Olympics coaching opportunities and Best Pals. To this day, Students for the Advancement of People with DIFFERbilities are adding new programs and initiatives that impact the students of CSB and SJU to promote a society of cial inclusion.

Winning the Peace First Prize will ultimately allow us to implement Students for the Advancement of People with DIFFERbilities across Minnesota.

And, it will allow me to use the current model of Students for the Advancement of People with DIFFERbilities to implement it in other colleges around the state. We can start such clubs at the high school level by developing and beginning unified service-learning opportunities for students with and without disabilities.

The award still surprises me.

Editor’s note: A native of Richmond, 2010 graduate of ROCORI High School in Cold Spring and a member of St. Boniface Parish in Cold Spring, Danielle Liebl is majoring in theology and peace studies, and hopes to pursue a position with an organization that advocates social justice.