Mater Dei Prep and the students in the Global Leaders program proudly conducted a United Nations flag unveiling ceremony at the high school on Tuesday, February 15. Mater Dei Prep officially accepted a United Nations flag that hung in the office of Pathways to Peace Founder and President Avon Mattison, who died in October 2021 and served as a mentor to numerous Mater Dei students. The flag symbolizes the unique bond between the United Nations and Mater Dei Prep's Global Leaders program.
Pathways to Peace is a United Nations Non-Governmental Organization. Avon Mattison was instrumental in creating the United Nations International Day of Peace celebrated every year on September 21. The Global Leaders program at Mater Dei Prep is designed to provide students with the tools to build stronger and safer communities, where dialogue is encouraged and solutions are implemented.
According to Mater Dei Prep teacher George Anthony, Director of the Global Leaders program, "Mater Dei Prep has built great partnerships with the United Nations and other organizations such as the Gandhi-King Season for Nonviolence. Our students partner with living Civil Rights icons working together to push the message of equality.
"Mater Dei students are encouraged to practice their Catholic principles of social justice and hope," Anthony continues. "Avon Mattison encouraged our students to believe in the strength of their passion, hopes and desires. Mater Dei Prep, through its support of the Global Leaders program, allows our present and future leaders to thrive and create communities where we all can benefit."
Several dignitaries contributed their perspectives to the solemn flag unveiling ceremony, including:
United Nations Pathways to Peace Representatives Rinor Jani, Jennifer Mauro and Marlenis Rosa
Lindy Crescitelli, United Nations Pathways to Peace Representative and Chairperson of the Gandhi-King Season for Non-Violence Conference
Ibrahim Sharif, Former Executive Director of the New Jersey State Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission
The flag unveiling ceremony, led by Emma DeBiase MDP '23 and Garrett Nolan MDP '24, showcased a tribute video to Avon Mattison and pre-recorded messages from Pathways to Peace Co-Founder Joanie Cardelli and Pathways to Peace Executive Director Tezikiah Gabriel. The video compilation was edited by Emma DeBiase '23, United Nations NGO High School Representative. Margaret Fisher '23 recited a poem, "Let Peace Prevail in This World" by Ravi Sathasivam. Musician Ray Andersen, also a United Nations Pathways to Peace Representative, serenaded the audience with a live performance of "Let it Be."
Several Mater Dei students shared their personal reflections, including Sofia Bustamante '24, Lucy Jackson '23, Bethsy Lima '24, Liam Lugay '24, Keira McStravick '24, Gerard Novello '22, Bella Shi '22, Isabella Vargas and Cathrine Volk '24. Many Global Leaders said their experiences with the United Nations Pathways to Peace partnership felt historic because of the topics discussed, such as non-nuclear proliferation, religious persecution, speaking out against racism and understanding the rule of law.
For example, Bella Shi '22, an exchange student from China, feels the students in the Global Leaders program have developed a global view and learned how to engage with the world. "Personally, the Global Leaders program set a strong foundation for me," she shares. "I want to study international business in college. With the Global Leaders program, when we talk about economic development, international affairs and international relationships, it really sets a strong interest for my future career."
Bethsy Lima '24 describes another significant impact of the Global Leaders program. "I used to be one of those kids that had a lot of anger issues," she shares. "I couldn't handle confrontation well, nor was I able to talk properly to adults and have a proper conversation. Through the Global Leaders program, I learned how to handle those situations and confrontations - how to handle my anger and actually respond to someone instead of reacting physically.
"Now I have a voice," Lima emphasizes. "I also speak for those who don't have a voice yet. I can help them get there."
Cathrine Volk '24 refers to Pathways to Peace Founder Avon Mattison as a "force of nature." According to Volk, "Avon Mattison broke down every wall that was put in front of her and made sure everyone else came up with her. She believed in peace - and that no matter who you are or what you believe in, you are an essential part of building that peace.
"I think that Avon's light shines through all of us when we work for global peace or when we help a stranger on the street," Volk shares. "I know she is there pushing us in the right direction. Because of Avon Mattison, I am a pathway to peace. I will help those who can't help themselves. I will use my voice to lift up my beliefs and the beliefs of others who cannot lift up their voices on their own. I will use the skills that she and this program have instilled in me to work for global peace, to work for an end to gender discrimination, racial discrimination, hunger and water crisis."
In addition to serving as a Senior Representative of Pathways to Peace at the United Nations, Marlenis Rosa works as an investigator for the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency. She believes "having faith, being hopeful and having love - it's all brought together with peace."
In addressing the Mater Dei students, Rosa admitted," We're all living through adversity. We're still living through the pandemic, trying to track and adjust and figure out what's next. But as students, I think you're very lucky to have this opportunity with the Global Leaders program. It's all thanks to Avon, who was a beacon of light, a beacon of peace, a beacon of hope, faith and love.
"Let's focus on what each and every one of you can do when you come together," Rosa challenged the Mater Dei Global Leaders. "We can face adversity. We can make the world a better place. Not just for us, a peer, or for you as an individual, but for the generations to come. You can be the change that this world needs, and I know you can do it. Like Avon used to say, we are a pathway to peace. Let's just find our niche and continue down that journey and that path."
Mater Dei Prep is a Catholic preparatory school in Middletown, New Jersey that offers an individualized learning experience which integrates faith, service and leadership. All students are welcome at Mater Dei Prep, which is founded in faith, committed to community and excels in education. Core values are faith, education, integrity, leadership, service and respect. Mater Dei Prep provides a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and opportunities for students to learn, grow, compete and believe.