Two Students Start 'Peace Team' to Combat Bullying

School may be out--but their vision will live on

By Justin Chapman, South Pasadena Patch, 6/22/2011

When recent grads Grace Aldrich and Will Hoadley-Brill noticed that the bullying at their school was "getting out of hand," the 10-year-old duo decided to stop turning a blind eye and actually do something about it.
"It was insane," said Hoadley-Brill. "We were both bullied at a point in our lives, but we saw most of it. One day we looked at someone bullying another kid and we just thought, 'That cannot happen anymore.'"
It began with a newsletter called "Bully Repellant," which they wrote and distributed to the students at their school. It explained how to stand up to bullying and—if you're a bully—how to stop being one.
They then asked Principal Brent Noyes if they could speak at an all-school assembly at the start of the year. Three hundred students immediately signed up. And they started to call themselves the "Peace Team."

Throughout the school year, Aldrich and Hoadley-Brill's vision spread to , as well as community organizations such as the Masons and even (including Superintendent Joel Shapiro). They now have 98 percent of their school and more than 1,000 students, teachers, principals, administrators and community supporters onboard and all behind a single message: Treat everyone with respect.
, Noyes praised the Peace Team for turning Arroyo Vista around. Bullying is extremely rare on Arroyo Vista's campus these days. 
"Grace Aldrich and Will Hoadley-Brill ... championed the formation of our Peace Team," Noyes said at the meeting. "These two outstanding students came forward with an idea and a passion to speak out against bullying and to meet our goal of being a safe, clean and bully-free school and school district."
Indeed the students have a plan in place to ensure the Peace Team's mission continues on while they're at . They've been training two students to take their place and hope to implement their program of peace and understanding at their new school.
"We haven't had the chance to talk to those other students from other schools that we want to be leaders and mentors for their school yet," said Hoadley-Brill. "But we're going to ask the class president and vice president to be the two mentors." 
Students have come to the Peace Team with a wide range of issues. The bullying, they said, was mostly constant teasing that snowballed into a major problem.
"There's none that's seriously physical. Throwing rocks at each other is the most serious type of bullying that we have that's physical or trying to hurt someone," said Hoadley-Brill. "But it's mostly making fun of them about how they look and their personality—so we're focusing on that."
Aldrich said anyone can join their group.
"Adults can join, grandmas can join; we even have pets signed up," she said, also mentioning that she hopes to spread the Peace Team to schools outside of South Pasadena.
Brill's mother, Leslie Brill, works in the office at Arroyo Vista. She thinks the Peace Team is more than just another school club or group.
"I am so proud of Will and Grace," she said. "It's incredible—the leadership that they have and just the personalities that it takes to start something like this. This is a movement they've started. To me it's not a club, it's a movement. I'm incredibly proud and so is Grace's mom."