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Called to Action: Two Reflections on This Week's Candlelight Vigil

Reflections by Luke Michel and Ellen Cothran
Mission Principles: Connection to Local & Global Communities, Community's Inclusivity & Diversity, Understanding of Social Justice & Global Systems

Ellen Cothran:
On Tuesday afternoon at 4:09 I was grumpy.  At 4:10, though, I was lucky enough to be transported from my narrow, “there’s not enough time in the day!” oulook to an event where time slowed down, candles were lit, and we silently shared our commitment to peace with the community.
As a response to the recent events in San Bernardino, several religious organizations in north county joined together to host a candlelight vigil that both honored the San Bernardino victims and denounced violence perpetrated in the name of religion. One of our students was involved in organizing the event and had issued an open invitation for faculty, staff, and students to attend the event with him, and many of us did.
The vigil was a profoundly moving experience.  We shared words of encouragement and community building with one another, some people prayed, and others briefly addressed the group with speeches and poetry.  We moved then to stand on the corner of La Costa Avenue and El Camino Real, silently sharing our candle light and our deeply held conviction that there is no place for violence in religion.
Holding my candle beside my husband, my son, other Pacific Ridge faculty and students, and folks we had never met before, I realized that taking action in a community is the culminating step in our learning process together.  Working to make a change for the better in our world empowers and satisfies us, and brings all of our analyzing, planning, and practicing to life.
Our banners that evening read, “Terrorism has no religion,” and a banner in my own mind read, “…and education knows no boundaries.”

Luke Michel:
As a parent of kids ranging from 20 months to eleven years old, my wife and I often have to negotiate our evenings as strategic plans against all that must get done, too often dismissing the unnecessary things from the schedule. This  leaves us missing fun or important things that just can’t be managed. The candlelight vigil of this week was different, however.
Teachers of history live in the world of examining past events and current events trying to make sense of human decisions and actions, but the other side of the education of students, and human growth in general, is to promote direct action and engagement in the world. One of the reasons I was drawn to Pacific Ridge is that the school actually gets students involved in the world around them.
During Tuesday’s announcements, Khalid, a senior, made a quick mention of the interfaith vigil that was taking place that evening and I was immediately excited to join in. The weight of current events in the world, whether the recent attacks in America, Civil War in Syria and the refugee crisis that is playing out as a result, or the election cycle politics that seem to be charting a potential new path for American policy, has been taking its toll on me, like all of us, and this was a wonderful moment of awareness and action.
The vigil was moving and powerful and I was proud to be a part of it and a part of this Pacific Ridge community.  Khalid reminded me of many things through his participation in this event, including the power of words, the importance of civic engagement and action, and more specifically, the importance of holding a standard for myself that matches what I teach in the classroom.  
My decision to prioritize this event was not due to my moral standards or my family dynamic, but rather the power of one student standing up against something that is wrong in this world and inspiring me and reminding me of my responsibilities as a history teacher and a community member.

Ellen Cothran
Librarian & Media Specialist

Luke Michel
7th-Grade Dean