At this time of year, most teenagers are preoccupied with how to get to the beach, how to get to the mall, or how to get out of mowing the lawn. But for the 1,000 or so scholar-athletes and scholar-artists crowded into the Sport Center at West Hartford's on July 1, the subject was world peace, and what they might do as individuals to foster it.
Credit for inspiring such lofty thoughts in teens belongs to West Hartford resident Dan Doyle and his Institute for International Sport, which this week brought to town the .
The summit, which got underway on Friday, was devised to follow the Scholar-Athlete Games and build on the relationships and understanding it fosters.
"I feel like we've learned how to make friends that aren't from our past background," said Lisa Volg, a 15-year-old from Granby, who took a seat in the Sport Center surrounded by fellow scholar-athletes.
Tobias Cropper, 14, of New Haven, said playing basketball on a team with kids from all over the world "felt good."
His hometown mate Winfred Rembert, 15, agreed. "I started off thinking it would be kind of weird, but it wasn't."
Rosham Randima, a coach from Sri Lanka, stood beside fellow coaches Arella Ramulu and martial arts champion Jameel Kahn Patan, both from Hyderabad, India. "I think it's good for children all over the world," Randima said.
Friday marked the end of the games, and the start of an ambitious program of talks and workshops designed to help scholar-athletes and scholar-artists devise Pathways to Peace initiatives they will take back to their own communities.
Experts scheduled to talk over the next four days include musician Brad Corrigan, U.N. delegates, members of Congress, academics, and Gen. Colin Powell, who will give the summit's concluding address on July 3. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been scheduled to open the peace summit with an address by video, but the video did not materialize, and her staff sent written remarks to be read to the audience.
Some students arrived at the opening of the summit with peace initiatives already in mind.
"I live in Bangladesh," said Julia Koczot, 17. "My dad works at the American embassy." Koczot works helping troubled kids at 11 different schools. Her Pathways to Peace initiative is to bring together the schools' students for a single day, to foster friendships, understanding, and goodwill. "I want to do what we did here, mix the students up in teams and have them play together," she said.
Seated near Koczot was Jacinta Lomba, 15, of South Windsor. "My family is from Cape Verde, Africa," Lomba said. Because many students there are from impoverished families, they don't typically have access to books, she explained. With help from her mother, Lomba came up with the idea of getting them books. "We want to bring the opportunity to read to kids there. The language in Cape Verde is Portuguese, so it requires me to find a source that can provide novels and books in Portuguese."
Assisting students and others in their Pathways to Peace initiatives will be part of the mission of the the Institute for International Sports' Center for Social Entrepreneurship. One office opens here this week with another in Middlebury, Vermont. The center is the next stage of development for Doyle's institute, which keeps growing and growing.
Even as the teenage scholar-athletes and scholar-artists began their four days of talks and workshops about world peace, Doyle was already thinking of the next group he can involve. "Boomers," said Doyle, who looked calmer than he should for a man running a five-ring circus. "It's people of my generation — 55 to 85 — they want to get involved. When I was in college, peace was what we talked about."