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Group that promotes peace has new leader

A library director from Alabama heads an organization that sponsors a national essay contest.

By PIPER JONES CASTILLO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 23, 2001


Ann Healy has been named the new executive director of the Radiance Technique International Association Inc., an international, non-profit organization based in St. Petersburg. The organization, in its 22nd year, holds the Peace Education Awards, an annual essay contest for elementary school students nationwide.

When Healy started her job last month, she was excited about the new chapter in her life. At Vance Elementary in Vance, Ala., where she served as director of the library, the students had been involved with the essay contest each spring.

She was also excited to move to St. Petersburg, where she would be closer to her aging mother.

She was not prepared for the aftermath of the events of Sept. 11. "It has been astounding. From Girl Scout leaders to day care owners, people are contacting us wanting information and talking about the tragedy and how to promote peace," said Healy, 49. "So many people are coming to us for help."

Before the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., the organization had made Sept. 22 International Day of Peace.

"For example, Walden School in Gulfport started their peace day project, a peace quilt, on Sept. 10. On Sept. 11, as the events unfolded, the students talked about what they were feeling and they dedicated the whole day, expressing their feelings and working on the quilt project."

As the new executive director, Healy oversees development projects, the archives and the Peace Education Awards. "Yes, I did take a pay cut by taking this job, and yes, it means something to me. I have seen how the peace awards encourage children to talk about peace. I always come back to things children have said. One of my favorite quotes to go by is from a boy named Neil. He said, 'Remember, peace has to start with someone.' "

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