Building Peace, One Teen at a Time

By Giving List Staff   |   November 26, 2022
The AHA! Peace Builders Mid-Year Conference unites junior and senior high school students for one Saturday each spring. They connect via games, experiential activities, and connection circles, building inspiration and skills to create a kinder, more inclusive community. PHOTO: Carly Otness

In our divided and bellicose world, peace can seem like an amorphous and unattainable concept. AHA! Peace Builders serves as a reminder that peace begins within each of us and only then can it emerge between individuals and eventually grow to be fostered among more and more people. 

Rooted in AHA!’s five pillars of Mindfulness, Resilience, Awareness, Empathy, and Connection, AHA! Peace Builders offers an inspired and tangible strategy to support participants in building positive relationships and promoting environments of belonging at school. Teens learn the skills needed to become leaders on their school campus, participating in events where their empowered leadership offers support to better and uplift their community. 

“The whole point of Peace Builders is to impact the climate of the school,” says Brandon Battle, AHA! Director of Programs. “It’s about learning how to dive inward and become really self-aware and socially aware… to become your most genuine self. Then you serve as a role model and leader who brings that out in other people.” 

In June 2022, AHA! offered two four-day sessions of the Digital cleanse retreat, giving a diverse group of teens a respite from their digital devices and offering an opportunity for deep connection – with themselves, their peers, and the natural world. (photo by Carly Otness)

AHA! Peace Builders participants: 

•Practice being an active participant in creating a positive, welcoming campus climate

•Meaningfully, authentically connect with each other while building self-awareness and social-emotional, leadership, and community-building skills 

•Learn and practice Connection Circle leadership to help others feel safe, seen, and appreciated

•Help build the world they want to live in through the language they use and the choices they make – including peacefully yet powerfully intervening or speaking out when necessary

AHA! Peace Builders is just part of AHA!’s array of in-school and off-campus programs. The organization has provided social-emotional learning (SEL) to more than 55,000 middle and high school students since its founding in 1999. 

It’s a big number and the organization’s effectiveness is even more impressive. At one struggling high school that received AHA!’s in-school programming, for example, suspensions dropped 70 percent and standardized test scores rose by 11 points. 

In all its programs, AHA! works to help teenagers remember what it’s like to connect in person, human to human, deeply and vulnerably – the most important antidote to the distress of separateness and fear. A goal of all AHA! programs, according to Executive Director Roxana Petty, is “to dismantle hate and counteract disconnection and despair… the root causes of heartbreaking school shootings.” 

With your help, AHA!’s legacy can continue for generations to come.


Attitude, Harmony, Achievement

Donate now!
(805) 770-7200 x 2
Senior Director of Development  Molly Green


AHA! equips teenagers, educators, and parents with social and emotional intelligence to dismantle apathy, prevent despair, and interrupt hate-based behavior.

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.

It’s never been harder to be a teenager. Social isolation, skyrocketing gun violence, social media divisiveness, bullying and discrimination, and persistent anxiety about an uncertain world have led to unprecedented levels of mental health issues in youth. For me – as a donor, volunteer, and now board member of AHA! – I know we must show up for our teenagers now more than ever, and this program is the surest way I know to make a profound difference. AHA! provides lifetime tools for social and emotional well-being, enabling teens to better care for themselves, each other, and their communities.
Justine Roddick
AHA! Board Member

Give Teens the Tools to Tackle Life

Our in-school programs have served some 55,000 students since our founding, and we receive just 14% from districts toward the cost of services. We need help reaching our goal of raising 33% of our budget – half a million dollars – to continue to provide social-emotional learning programming, mentorship, and support to the SBUSD and CUSD.

Key Supporters

Lisa and Bryan Babcock
Jennifer and Peter Buffett
Deckers Brands
Daun and Daniel Dees
Lisa Foley
Erica Gervais
Kerrilee and Martin Gore
Nancy Grinstein and Neal Rabin
Karen and Bayard Hollins
Danialle and Peter Karmanos
Jill Martin
Nora McNeely Hurley
and Michael Hurley
NoVo Foundation
Natalie Orfalea and Lou Buglioli
Marla McNally Phillips and Lee Phillips
Stacy and Ron Pulice
The Rodel Foundations
Justine Roddick and Tina Schlieske
Rand Rosenberg and Teran Davis
Leanne Schlinger
Regina Scully
Susan and Bobby Shand
The Smidt Family
Kind World Foundation