John Handley High School's Peace Pole Garden was founded in the Spring of 2023, in conjunction with the Handley Interact Club, and the Winchester Rotary Club. Formulated, built, and kept up by students, the garden features a variety of native perennials that also support local pollinator communities.
“Planting a Peace Pole is a way of bringing people together to inspire, awaken and uplift the human consciousness all over the world,” added Handley Principal Susan Braithwaite. “Peace Poles are now recognized as the most prominent international symbol and monument to peace. They remind us to think, speak and act in the spirit of peace and harmony.”
The original idea and planning for the garden was initiated by Ashley Truban, a John Handley and Mountain Vista Governor's School student, as well as an Interact board member.
The native plants for the garden were donated or grown from seeds and were originally planted by Interact volunteers. The seeds for the project were provided by Sustainability Matters, through Hannah Bement, a teacher at Mountain Vista Governor's School.
The seedlings were then transferred to the prepared site on John Handley High School campus and planted by JHHS Interact volunteers. The site features a wooden triangular raised bed built by Handley carpentry classes, which is another aspect of the student-centered focus of the garden.
At the center of the garden is the Rotary International Peace Pole, a symbol for international peace under the Peace Pole Project initiative, a global mission focused on spreading the message "May Peace Prevail On Earth". Jaime Karalis, president of the Rotary Club of Winchester, shared in his remarks, “As we gather here today, I ask us all the following: To praise people, abandon putdowns, seek wisdom, acknowledge and address hurts that we’ve caused, right wrongs, help others and, most importantly, build peace at home, at school and in our community each day.”
The Peace Pole and garden were honored in an opening ceremony on May 10, 2023. The garden and Peace Pole site will continue to be maintained by Handley Interact throughout the following years.