Teen continues his peace crusade
The teen has also started a program called Peacemakers.
By PAUL H. JOHNSON
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Brandon Lee Wolff wants to bring peace to schools.
The Englewood, N.J., teen, who will be a sophomore at Swarthmore College this fall, wants to bring the anti-violence project he started -- dubbed Save R Us -- to schools in Bergen County, N.J., in particular.
Wolff, 18, started Save R Us as a ninth-grader while living in Bucks County, Pa., in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings in Colorado.
"I couldn't believe kids were taking the lives of other kids," Wolff said. "I wanted to do something proactive."
So in 2001 he started Save R Us, which staged a one-day peace festival at Council Rock High School where he was a student.
Soon, Wolff had expanded Peace Day to Peace Week for the entire school district. The aim of the group is to promote peace both locally and internationally.
Made the move
When he arrived at Swarthmore last year, he brought his organization with him. He started a chapter that held a peace week in April. He also started a program called Peacemakers, which had college students mentor high school kids to teach them how to avoid violent confrontations and stop bullying. The program runs at Chester High School in Pennsylvania.
"We realized they naturally look up to you," Wolff said of his Peacemakers program. "If we could feed them a positive message, they would be all ears."
In 2004, Wolff was invited to the World Youth Center in Canada to learn about creating social action groups with other young leaders from around the world.
Even though he was in college and no longer living in Pennsylvania, Wolff kept his Save R Us program running in Bucks County and held a Peace Week for the entire county earlier this year.
This year, Wolff's family moved to Englewood and the teen has spent this summer working with the Bergen County United Way to expand his Save R Us program here.
He won a social action grant from Swarthmore to pursue his work and set up shop at the Bergen County United Way.
"He's a gifted young man. He's very organized and very diligent," said Tom Toronto, president of the county's United Way. "To me he represents an asset to the community."
Met with leaders
This summer Wolff has met with local community leaders to try to get his program off the ground. He hopes to host a training session for students in October to help them form clubs in their schools.
"He's picked up some real momentum," Toronto said. "We're all going to be working for him one day," he joked.
After finishing school, Wolff plans to become a pediatrician. He expects to hold another Peace Week next year with all the colleges near Swarthmore, including Haverford and Bryn Mawr. He also wants to expand his Peace Week idea to several counties in Pennsylvania near where he grew up.
"I really wanted to continue now that I've moved to a new place," Wolff said. "I didn't just do this to do it in high school."
He said young people need to know they can have an impact in their communities.
"The goal is to empower youth in our community," he said. "They're not too young or too busy to make a difference. They can take action and work on preventing violence."