The Paradise Center for Tolerance and Nonviolence in Paradise, California was recently awarded a $500 Peace with Justice Grant from the California-Nevada Annual Conference. The grant will be used in the Center's STARS afterschool program, which helps youngsters learn to deal with all aspects of bullying.
The long-term physical and mental health consequences of bullying are well documented, and unchecked bullying can escalate to serious violence. "Some kids are afraid to go to school or walk down a street, even in Paradise, because they have been bullied," says Mary Shallenberger, a longtime member of the Church and Society/Missions Commission of Paradise United Methodist Church, who is active at the center, as well.
"Since 2005 the STARS program has shown positive benefits for the participants in the community. Ninety-seven children participated in STARS in 2009, and this year, thanks to the grant, we are implementing a new dynamic curriculum that will be offered to many more children in grades 1-8," she says. "Many thanks to the Conference Peace with Justice Committee for this grant!"
Paradise Center for Tolerance and Nonviolence began in 2000 as a task force at Paradise United Methodist Church. After the task force put on the first Diversity Festival in a community park, many people in the community wanted to join in the mission of "promoting respect for differences and human rights, fostering alternatives to violence, and advocating for a safe, hospitable, and harmonious community for all." Thus the Center was born and still is going strong, with the continuing involvement of some members of PUMC.
STARS, and now the new "You Have the Power" program, are presented at the Boys and Girls Club afterschool program at three elementary schools.