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Just Peace Receives Don Shaffer Student Peacemaker Award

by, Nicole Rodriguez, Asst. Production Editor

This year, Manhattan College’s Just Peace Club has been awarded the Don Shaffer Student Peacemaker Award from Peace Action New York State (PANYS).

The award is named after Don Shaffer, an activist who recognized that a strong New York presence in the national network of Peace Action was important. Shaffer mentored and connected New York leaders for many years and recipients of this award are those who carry forward his legacy. The award recognizes an out- standing student chapter for their impressive work and leadership in peace education and activism within their community and among their peers.

As a student chapter of PANYS, Just Peace is dedicated to social justice, action and aware- ness. The group provides a safe space for students on campus to learn and engage in the so- cial issues they are passionate about.

Just Peace co-presidents Rachel Roca and Khaitlyn Figueroa both are student organizer interns for PANYS participating in regular meetings and conferences. Roca further explained the club’s affiliation to the organization.

“Peace Action New York State is our mother organization,” Roca said. “Just Peace is one of many student campus chapters in the state of New York. I along with Khaitlyn Figueroa, the other co-president, are also student organizer interns for PANYS — all presidents are.We have regular meetings with other leaders from across the state and conferences. PANYS is an awe- some organization fighting for really important causes and they provide us with a lot of support.”


Roca (left) and Figueroa (right) represented the club while accepting the award.
RACHEL ROCA / COURTESY

Just Peace hosts events on different topics revolving around current events and membership interest in collaboration with other organizations on and off campus. Event top- ics range from mental health to modern day slavery to climate justice. Annual events include the Period Project where members collect free menstrual products to donate to local shelters and their clothing drive for New York clothing shelters.

Sydney Waitt, the club’s social media editor, described the unique role Just Peace plays on campus.

“Just Peace plays an important role on campus,” she said. “I think we’re known for a lot of our annual events as well as many collaborations with other clubs. I think what makes Just Peace so special is that we are very active and intertwined with the Jasper community and that’s something we’re incredibly proud of.”

The Don Shaffer Student Peacemaker Award is not only an honor for Just Peace, but also a reflection of the leadership role students have taken in the struggle for justice and peace.

“The Don Shaffer Student Peacemaker Award is an immense honor,” Waitt said. “There are several chapters all around New York and to be recognized for the hard work and dedication this entire group, including our recent graduates, has put in feels very rewarding. I think it’s a good reminder that although we don’t always see the effects and results of our advocacy it does make even a slight difference, and that’s a reward in itself.”


The slide PANYS showed when announcing Manhattan College’s Just Peace as the Don Shaffer Peacemaker Award recipient.
RACHEL ROCA / COURTESY

Figueroa recognizes while this award means a lot, it’s not the most important thing for the club.

“Being recognized for this award means a lot to our club,” Figueroa said. “We hope that the small changes our club makes fosters growth for our community.”

To Just Peace’s advisor, Kevin Ahern, this recognition is a testament to the students’ hard work.

“This is great news,” Ahern, an associate professor of religious studies, said in a story posted on the college’s website on Oct. 5. “It reflects the leadership role of our students at Manhattan in the struggle for justice and peace.”

Just Peace will be screening a documentary with Campus Ministry, participating in MC Halloween and organizing Pandemic Peace Pals, a new initiative to connect Jaspers to new friends.

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