by program co-director Bruce Pruitt-Hamm
This article contains a brief introduction to each of the current youth fellows and their projects.
Since the turn of the millennium the WWFOR has nurtured a unique long-term training program for youth in the theory and skills of nonviolent activism. In the year 2000 the Peace Activist Trainee program had 2 participants. In the 22 years following, more than 150 youth activists have received funding, training and support from WWFOR. In 2014 the PAT program merged into the Mike Yarrow Peace Fellowship in honor of PAT founder and WWFOR Organizer, Mike Yarrow, who died of cancer at age 74 that year. From 2014 to the present the MYPF program has been organized by 3 volunteer Co-Directors, assisted each year by youth leaders who have emerged from the program to help with the training and support work.
In 2022, Co-Directors Bruce and Janis Pruitt-Hamm and Mary Lou Finley are joined by 2017 MYPF Graduate and WWFOR Regional Council member, Sarah Pham, now enrolled at the University of Washington. Sarah will be leading monthly “Strategy/Support” meetings via Zoom, starting 9/11/22, and has set up digital spaces for the MYPF to communicate and support each other through the year. This leadership team is working with 10 young activists, ages 14 to 19, accepted as Peace Fellows for 2022-23.
“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss“
Activism is my rent for living on the planet.”- Alice Walker
Nirja Thaler, 17, Olympia
Co-founder of the Feminism Club at Olympia High School, Nirja is interested in criminal justice and racial justice issues. She hopes to lobby the legislature and organize public protest, seeking skills to become a better leader for a better world.
Nesiah Humphrey, 14, and sister Nnenaya Humphrey, 15, Montreal
Sisters Nesiah and Nnenaya are homeschooled and live in Montreal, Quebec. They plan to work together on the “crisis of soil erosion”. Despite the apparent non-vital appearance of dirt, our Mother Earth’s topsoil is the greatest reservoir and donor of microbial diversity on the planet, recycling waste, purifying water fixing inorganic CO2 to organic carbon and a myriad of other processes essential for life.
Dwija Adamala, 17, Olympia
Having participated in protests regarding gun safety, human rights, Black Lives Matter, and environmental issues, Dwija intends to work as Peace Fellow on the increasing problem of “economic inequality” and hopes to “promote a more equitable future in Olympia.” More specifically, Dwija plans to “create workshops to inform people about the connection between economic inequality and other forms of persistent inequality” and create an action guide on the issue.
Leo Perry, 16, East Wenatchee
President of Eastmont High School’s Queer Straight Alliance Club (QSA) and the Youth Representative for Wenatchee Pride, Leo’s goal as a MYPF activist is to “make LBGTQIA students and youth feel accepted and loved in my community and also educate non LGBTQIA people about the movement.” Living in Douglas County, pop. 45,000, Leo’s activism on behalf of sexual orientation minorities is set in the context of “one of the most strongly Republican counties in the state in presidential elections”, with over 60% voting for Trump in both 2016 and 2020 elections.
Jenna Willingham, 15, Olympia
Putting it simply, Jenna stated on her application, “I want to be a positive voice for change.” Currently a member of a Racial Equity group at Olympia High School Jenna plans to work on systemic racism. She has a focus on “unconscious bias”.
Hannah Martin, 15, Olympia
A cheerleader and a feminist, Hannah wants to “pursue activism as my career” because “activism brings me a personal sense of accomplishment, as well as helps to improve the lives of those around me.” Having already organized 2 school walkouts on gun violence and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Hannah is already a seasoned activist, having attended many protests and engaged in organizing on a range of topics such as women’s rights, black lives matter, and climate change. Her MYPF project is to implement a feminist curriculum at Olympia High School.
Angella Clarke, 15, Fargo ND
Angela was a MYPF in 2021 and is repeating the program to continue her work on “Period Poverty” and access to feminine hygiene products at her school.
Christine Zhang, 16, Olympia
Christine was also a MYPF in 2021, working on gender equality and digital literacy. As a consequence of work on her MYPF project in 2021 she was recommended and appointed to the Olympia School Board as one of 2 Student Representatives on June 23, 2022. She is the founder of “By Her 4 Her” and her project has been to get a digital literacy curriculum adopted by elementary schools in the Olympia area. She has met with legislators, school administrators and School Board members in furtherance of her project and recognizes her work is not yet finished, even though she has enjoyed remarkable successes.
Kimberly Il, 19, Olympia/Seattle
As a Cambodian-American with refugee parents who resettled in the U.S. after the Khmer took over Cambodia, Kim plans to work on helping Khmer refugees who face deportation back to Cambodia. A student at UW, she has experience organizing for release of detainees at the NW Detention Center in Tacoma.