The first week of school for Ketchikan students also was a week for observing peace in the community.
"Kings for Peace Week" is recognized annually by the student body of Ketchikan High School, and is built around celebration of the International Day of Peace, which is always celebrated on Sept. 21.
The tradition was kickstarted by Kayhi English teacher Sarah Campbell after she returned from a 2013 trip to Japan.
Campbell spoke about the origins of the week-long event during a recent interview with the Daily News.
As the teacher of the Asian Studies class at Kayhi, Campbell was interested in learning more about Japanese history to bring back to her classroom, specifically when it came to how the topic of global and community peace was handled in curriculum.
"And specifically, I went to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and so I met with atomic bomb survivors and it shaped my understanding — reshaped my understanding – of peace, compassion and forgiveness," Campbell said. "You know, the survivors, they spoke of hope, they spoke of opening lines of communication. They talked about rebuilding relationships. And I brought their stories back into my Asian literature classroom and designed some lessons to get kids thinking about what peace really means to them."
Campbell integrated the lessons she learned into her curriculum, which led to a student asking if the Asian Literature class could involve the entire student body of Kayhi in the effort to recognize global peace.
Three years later, in 2017, Campbell organized the first "Kings for Peace" assembly, where the school dedicated a "peace pole" in the Kayhi commons.
The pole features the phrase "may peace prevail on earth" in six languages; English, Japanese, Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian and Tagalog.
"I wasn't really sure what the students would think about it, but it was a big success, and it stuck," Campbell recalled.
Every year since, the school has observed the International Day of Peace. Although it was a single-day celebration at first, the idea expanded to include the entire week surrounding Sept. 21.
"It's been really great to see this evolve over the years," Campbell said.
During a regular week of celebration, an assembly would be held along with other peaceful activities. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an assembly was not a safe option to mark the occasion.
Instead, Campbell and students from the Kayhi Rotary Interact Club assembled a list of online and socially distant challenges to celebrate in a socially distant manner.
While the week-long observance of the day originated at Kayhi, it has expanded to include students from across the district this year, and the challenges were open to participation from anyone in Ketchikan.
"They're kind of silly, feel-good things like 'wear white on Wednesday' and sending an encouraging note to a friend, but even though it's not like, big huge social activism or changing the world through legislation, it's really reminding us that peace begins in each one of us," Campbell explained. "It's something personal in how we work with other people and how we build a community of respect through our diversity."
A community art project also was put together to observe the day, Campbell explained. Working with the Rotary Interact club, local artist Jeanette Sweetman and the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition, a students created a large number of peace flags to fly at Berth 4 on Saturday afternoon.
From noon to 3 p.m. that same day, anyone was encouraged to stop by and tie-dye face masks provided by the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center, with the flags hanging near the art creation station.
The flags featured messages calling for peace and support, and will later be distributed within district schools.
Students from schools throughout the district were asked to create the small flags. Campbell explained that this tradition originates in Tibet and Nepal, and that it is believed when the wind blows, the messages on the flags will be spread throughout the community.
"It's a visual reminder that we as community members, if they all work together, we can create something positive and special together," Campbell said.
Campbell called Kings for Peace week a "good, positive way to start our school year."
Members of the Kayhi Rotary Interact Club also appeared at Monday's Ketchikan Borough Assembly meeting to accept a mayoral proclamation promoting the annual event.