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  • Writer's pictureSophie Park

Connecting with Schools, Countries, Districts to Integrate Active Peace into Student Resources and Curriculum

Last December, a senior student from Homestead High School, decided to end his life. I can only imagine the suffering and conflict he faced before his decision. The cold waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, a few hours away by bicycle–I wonder how alone he must have felt, and the hopelessness that drove him to jump. Our district issued a report later that week. Even if we didn’t know him personally, there was a silent sense of sorrow, and understanding, that rippled through the school. His loss was a weight on all of us. And although his friends claimed he was ever-smiling and present, we understood

There is a secret that we cannot always bear to say. The pressure of success–to check every box, exceed every expectation, and exist in essence, as perfection–has been a brewing problem for youth all over the world, especially within developed countries. It has been a critical issue I have noticed personally in my community, Silicon Valley, as well. Despite its material abundance, I see so much mental anguish in my environment–so much sadness and stress, but no effective way of coping with it. As the center of technological innovation, progress, modernity, and opportunity–there is so much potential to be discovered, so many skills that allow one to flourish independently. But what is it that we harbor in our thoughts, that we decide to escape from these infinite doorways? Why do we want to erase ourselves from these narratives, or run from imminent reality?

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with rates increasing nearly every year from 2001-2021 (1). Even before the COVID-19 public health crisis, 20% of children ages 3 to 17 in the United States were known to suffer from a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral challenge. In addition, from 2009 to 2019, the share of high school students who reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased from 26% to 37%. Suicide rates among high school students increased 44% during the decade, with about 16% having made a suicide plan in the prior year. Furthermore, between 2007 and 2018, suicide rates among people ages 10-24 in the United States increased 57% (2).

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality(1)

Providing a stark contrast to the United States, Bhutan–recognized as one of the world's happiest countries–has introduced a proprietary Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index to assess the contentment of their citizens. Bhutan was the first country in the world to pursue happiness as a state policy. Their philosophy of gross national happiness has several dimensions: it is holistic, recognizing people’s spiritual, material, physical or social needs; it emphasizes balanced progress; it views happiness as a collective phenomenon; it is both ecologically sustainable, pursuing well-being for both current and future generations, and equitable, achieving a fair and reasonable distribution of well-being among people (3). Moreover, the GNH Index value increased from 0.743 in 2010 to 0.781 in 2022. This upward trend demonstrates Bhutan’s commitment to creating an environment that fosters wellbeing and happiness, even in the face of economic downturns like the COVID-19 pandemic (4)

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index Assessment Criteria (5)

However, with its diverse nations, every part of Earth faces unique problems. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of the total economic output of a country, gauging the overall economic activity and size of a nation's economy. GDP per capita evaluates average income or economic standard of living per person in a nation, and as opposed to the U.S.’ Gross Domestic Product per capita being the highest in the world with over $83,000, Bhutan’s GDP per capita remains in the lower half among all nations, at approximately $3,600 in 20236. Here lies the conundrum–how could a country with such incredible opportunity suffer from so much mental negativity and burden? And on the other hand, how could a country with little material goods, economic and educational opportunity, be known as one of the happiest in the world?

GDP per Capita in the U.S. Versus Bhutan (6)

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease. The same is true for peace. Not merely the lack of conflict, peace represents the empowerment of individuals' well being and constant state of progress to reach their highest potential. As a youth-lead community, Active Peace seeks to build bridges, break down barriers, and empower global communities through holistic wellness initiatives, cultural reconnection, and mutual discovery. 

Active Peace utilizes a guiding framework of positivity, empowerment, ascension, compassion, and empathy. Some initiatives include:

  • Global Campaigns: Partnerships with influential social and political entities, NGOs, and industry leaders, to enhance awareness campaigns and outreach while promoting a collective commitment to global holistic well-being and cultural understanding. Connecting with school districts across the world to integrate Active Peace into student resources and curriculum.

  • Positive Peace Curriculum: Educational programs to address individualized needs and bridge regional disparities using theoretical webinars to cover diverse topics such as cultural specialties, entrepreneurship, financial and technology literacy, economics, mental wellness, spirituality, and growth mindsets. Facilitating practical learning through live meeting rooms, general chats, and resources for developing collaborative, socially impactful projects.

  • Creativity & Engagement: Global Exploration Map, personalizable wellness journey plan for customizable goal tracking, digital mindfulness/reflection journal for students, gallery for collaborative project showcases, e-commerce platform supporting small businesses in developing countries, monthly newsletter featuring regional spotlights and collaborative project highlights, social media content for wellness tips and inspirational quotes, comprehensive Wellness Hub covering mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and nutritional aspects (resources including a meditation-style resource, fitness tracker, emotional management advice, and a built-in nutritional education app).

Active Peace hopes to help youth connect and turn opportunity into abundant realities together. By recognizing the individual strengths and weaknesses of diverse communities, this organization is able to create a network of support, empowering the next generation with skills and opportunities otherwise unexplored or inaccessible. President John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps (7) served as a beacon of global awareness and service in the great struggle to end poverty and foster more harmonious relations between people. My vision of Active Peace would be a next step, to build a better world through emotional and spiritual wellness and resilience. It is time to address the challenges faced by youth in the modern world by launching an interconnected "Peace Corps”–who knows what unexpectedly beautiful things will be discovered? 

NGO Proposal Works Cited 

1 Garnett, Matthew F., and Sally C. Curtin. “Suicide Mortality in the United States, 2001–2021 (Products - Data Briefs - Number 464 - April 2023).” CDC, 13 April 2023, Accessed 3 January 2024.

2 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report (NHQDR). “CHILD AND ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH - 2022 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report.” NCBI, October 2022, Accessed 3 January 2024.

3 Sithey, Gyambo, and Li. “Gross national happiness and health: lessons from Bhutan.” NCBI, 1 August 2015, Accessed 3 January 2024. 

4 “Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index | OPHI.” Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Accessed 3 January 2024.

5 “Construction of the GNH Index.”, Accessed 6 January 2024.

6 “World Economic Outlook (October 2023) - GDP per capita, current prices.” International Monetary Fund, Accessed 6 January 2024.

7“History.” Peace Corps, Accessed 4 February 2024.

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