Tell us about yourself.
I’m Paul Fleisher, Assistant to the Director, Richmond Peace Education Center (RPEC). I’ve been a member of RPEC since the early 1980s. I joined the staff after a 31 year career as a public school educator, a job that began as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. I’ve also had a long career as a writer of children’s books and essays.
What is the focus of your work and the need you are addressing?
I coordinate a number of RPEC’s youth programs, the Richmond Youth Peace Project, a program that empowers teenagers to be leaders for peacemaking and community change. Each year we train about 25 central-Virginia students to lead conflict resolution sessions for younger children and other teens, with the support of our adult trainers.
I also staff our annual statewide peace essay contest. I help maintain our electronic presence in the community and do much of our publicity and outreach for public programs and events on issues of international peace and social justice here in the Richmond community. ConnectVA has been a very useful resource over the years notifying the community about these events, and involving new participants.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
It’s great to work with dedicated, long-time activists, and a wonderful group of young people who are committed to making their world a more just and peaceful place to live.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishment in this position?
I’m very proud of our youth program, the Richmond Youth Peace Project. It has trained well over 200 middle- and high school-age students in nonviolent conflict resolution and leadership in their community. Some of these young people have since gone on to become members of our adult leadership team; others have served as RPEC board members. As an older activist, their youthful creativity and enthusiasm keeps me inspired and hopeful.
We still have much to address when it comes to the economic and social inequities in our community and our world. I’ve come to accept that none of us can solve all of society’s ills–but the process of working to make our community better for all is sufficiently rewarding in itself.
What?s coming next for your organization that really excites you?
In February we’ll be presenting our annual Educoncert, Generation Dream–a youth arts production honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The show features dozens of talented young musicians, singers, dancers and spoken word artists reflecting on their own visions of Dr. King’s dream. It’s a powerful, inspirational show. Don’t miss it! In April, we’re planning our annual Youth Peace Summit–a day-long conference for teens with workshops emphasizing conflict resolution and violence prevention, youth leadership and positive self-expression through the arts.
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
We’ve used ConnectVA for years to get the word out to the broader community about our programs and workshops, as well as to make connections with other organizations that share common interests. The ConnectVA calendar has also been useful to us as we look ahead in scheduling events, and we’ve found both volunteers and new staff members through the site. ConnectVA continues to be an excellent resource for us.