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Feb. 2, 2012

Youth organization closes

by Emma Bergman, Print Editor-in-Chief
Washington, D.C. youth development organization City at Peace closed last month as a result of long-term financial difficulties. The organization was forced to cut short what would have been its seventeenth year.

City at Peace is a non-profit organization that promotes cross-cultural understanding and social awareness. Artistic Director Sandra Holloway said that the organization teaches fundamental principles so that students can spread them throughout the community.

Senior Alice Mukora, a former cast member, said that in the first few months of every year-long session, City at Peace consisted of a series of seminars where students shared their experiences with oppression. In the second half of the year, members worked on producing a play based on their personal stories.

Junior Jordana Rubenstein-Edberg, who was a board member as well as a member of the City at Peace production team, said that despite its popularity, the organization lost major grants due to technicalities. "Because we began as a grassroots organization, we didnít have a history of surveys and testing of our participants. A lot of grants require those because they want to make sure that theyíre putting their money into something thatís effective," she said.

Rubenstein-Edberg said another contributing factor was the loss of returning cast members. For many years, the majority of the group as made up of returning cast members. Rubenstein-Edberg explained that when City at Peace began to include primarily new members, consistent attendance dwindled, which further lowered the possibility of gaining grant money.

As a representative of the board and the production team, Rubenstein-Edberg was faced with informing the cast that City at Peace was closing. "Itís just hard because in a program like City at Peace I get to know people and I get to know their issues and a lot of people have trust issues. I felt like finally some people were just starting to give their trust to this organization and then we had to let them down, which really just hurt because thatís exactly what we
work against," she said.

Reactions to the news were varied. Holloway said that many people were angry with City at Peace leadership for concealing the financial problems from the cast. She said several cast members and alumni felt that more could have been done to keep the organization from closing.

City at Peace alumnus Jozie Zwerdling was a part of the large group of alumni from across the country that gathered in D.C. on the organizationís final day. Zwerdling said that the City at Peace members will continue to promote the organizationís values long after itís gone. "There is still a lot of spirit for continuing the work in youth development, social justice and performing arts," she said.

Holloway expressed her belief that City at Peace is irreplaceable. "There are organizations out there definitely that are doing work on racism or adultism or sexism or heterosexism or conflict resolution or the performing arts. We were the only organization that was really bringing it all together successfully," she said.

The City at Peace production team continues to meet weekly to plan events and work towards the organizationís goals.



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