Opening Hearts and Minds to Creative Leadership and Advocacy


Opening Hearts and Minds to Creative Leadership and Advocacy


Opening Hearts and Minds to Creative Leadership and Advocacy


Opening Hearts and Minds to Creative Leadership and Advocacy


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Opening Hearts and Minds to
Creative Leadership & Advocacy

8 Saturdays (4:00PM – 5:30PM): February 6th – March 27th
Ages: 8-9 (Bluebirds), 10-11 (Gems), 12-13 (Condors)

Collective Identity and Expression
This program consists of 4 virtual sessions to be taken together
(Feb 6th & 20th, March 6th & 20th) POSTPONED

Nutrition and Mindfulness
This program consists of two separate virtual sessions:
Fix Climate Change with Diet Change (Feb 13th)
Nutritious Food: A Human Right & Responsibility (March 13th)

Family Program
This program consists of two separate outdoor and socially-distanced sessions:
**FULL: Guadalupe Mural Project  (Feb 27th)**
Sustainable Living at the Lavra (March 27th)

Sign up for the full eight week experience of “Opening Hearts & Minds”
and get one week FREE!

Program 1: $108 POSTPONED
Program 2: $27 for one or $54 for both sessions
Program 3: $27 for one or $54 for both sessions

PROGRAM 1: Collective Identity & Expression (virtual) POSTPONED

Feb 6th & 20th, March 6th & 20th: 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Students dig deep to understand their unique creative gifts. Students choose to complete a creative project in any modality— writing, art, music, movement, writing, cooking, or any combination of these. Through sharing their projects with peers as they progress, students gain self-awareness and confidence in sharing their creativity with others. Students hone in on leadership skills that inspire others to do the same. Rotating through activities with expert educators in their fields, students will also practice the ‘5 R’s’ of non-violent communication, a prescription for peaceful relationships with self and others. Students learn how to face difficulties, accept responsibility with courage, and transform situations into positive steps towards peace and compassion.

PASA’s Pillars: Self-Awareness & Global Citizenship. Academic Enrichment: communication, language arts, humanities, art, mindfulness, socio-emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and leadership. 

PASA’s Values: Love, Humility, Compassion, Kindness, Gratitude, Peace, Peacemaking, Generosity, Seeking Knowledge and Wisdom.

Program 2: Nutrition and Mindfulness (virtual)

Fix Climate Change with Diet Change 

February 13th: 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Students will connect their food and consumption choices to climate science and impacts on our environment. Students will learn about pollution reduction, the impacts of animal farming, greenhouse gases, ocean acidification and eutrophication of aquatic biomes. With an opportunity to make and enjoy a delicious meal, students use their math skills to practice measurements, precision, and accuracy. 

PASA’s Pillars: Self-Awareness & Environmental Stewardship. Academic Enrichment: math, science, culinary arts, culture, citizenship, and the environment. 

PASA’s Values: Humility & Seeking Knowledge

Nutritious Food: A Human Right & Responsibility 

March 13th: 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Through story and culinary arts, students learn how access to and consumption of nutritious food is a human right that belongs to every human, no matter where or how they live. Students will learn about the causes and impacts of food deserts and learn how food democracy can help solve the crises of food insecurity and food waste.  Students practice mindful eating in gratitude. With an opportunity to make and enjoy a delicious meal, students use their math skills to practice measurements, precision, and accuracy. 

PASA’s Pillars: Environmental Stewardship & Social Justice. Academic Enrichment: math, science, culinary arts, culture, citizenship, and the environment. 

PASA’s Values: Generosity & Gratitude

Program 3: Family Program

(outdoors & socially distanced)
Guadalupe Mural Project 

Feb 27th: Painting Times Scheduled in Increments Between 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Students will use their artistic skills to create a mural for the Guadalupe Native Plant Garden. The garden began as a Dunes Center summer camp project for youth in 2010. Since that time the Guadalupe Native Plant Garden has been carefully maintained by residents and volunteers from the surrounding communities. Students will work together on this day to create a mural using a grid map of a universal message brainstormed by Peace Academy students. Their artwork will continue to attract visitors to the garden space and highlight its beauty. In the process students will learn more about native plants and have an opportunity to spend the day in Guadalupe, visiting its many special destinations like Guadalupe Beach and Oso Flaco Lake, the Judy Baca murals, and walking to the many cultural and historical buildings.

We will meet at the Dunes Center at 1065 Guadalupe Street, Guadalupe, CA 93434. 

PASA’s Pillars: Self-Awareness, Environmental Stewardship & Global Citizenship. Academic Enrichment: mapping, art, collaboration, and problem solving. 

PASA’s Values: Love & Gratitude

Sustainable Living at the Lavra 

March 27th: 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM

At the Lavra (a sustainable living community and gathering space in Arroyo Grande), we’ll learn the science behind soil health and planting edible landscape crops, discussing both ancient and modern horticulture. Then, we’ll harvest, feast, and celebrate our students’ work together.

PASA’s Pillars: Environmental Stewardship. Academic Enrichment: science, biology, engineering and agriculture.

PASA’s Values: Peace, Peacemaking, & Gratitude

Sign up for the full eight week experience of “Opening Hearts & Minds”
and get one week FREE!

Our Teachers

Dara Stepanek is an educator and community leader who graduated from Cal Poly with a Mathematics Major, Physics Minor, and Teaching Credential. She taught math at Central Coast New Tech High School for 6 years, where she served as the club advisor for the Social Justice League, a group of students who worked to educate, activate, and lead our communities into a world that is just for all. Dara enjoys time with her son and now manages operations for her family business, Bliss Cafe, to promote and serve locally grown vegan, organic cuisine. She recently became a Climate Reality Leader and is excited to graduate in March 2020 as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Her hope for this Enrichment Program is to reinvigorate our democracy by empowering students to be global citizens. Always looking for innovative ideas within the broad spectrum of educational possibilities, Dara is very excited to be a part of Peace Academy’s team and vision.

Dr. Lata Murti is Associate Professor of Sociology for the School of Arts and Sciences at Brandman University, where she was the recipient of the 2015 Outstanding University Faculty of the Year Award. Before studying and teaching sociology, Dr. Murti was a Spanish teacher for grades 2-8. She has BA degrees in Spanish and Humanities as well as MA and Ph.D. degrees in American Studies and Ethnicity, from the University of Southern California.
For her BA degree in Spanish, Dr. Murti studied at the University of Costa Rica, in San Jose, Costa Rica, for one semester, which left her yearning for Latina culture and the Spanish language.

Dr. Ingrid Kovacs, an award winning credentialed music teacher. She has taught general music and orchestra in both the private and public school sector for over thirty years, for all grade levels. She is all level certified in both Kodaly and Orff Schulwerk methods and a certified Suzuki Violin teacher. Dr. Kovacs earned both a bachelor and master’s degree in Music (Music History) from the University of Southern California. In 2010 Dr. Kovacs completed her Doctor of Musical Arts at Boston University. Dr. Kovacs is active as a journal editor and presenter at state and national conventions. Her research interests included string pedagogy, classroom management, and historical studies, and her work is frequently published. As an orchestra director, Dr. Kovacs is well known for her innovation, pedagogical expertise and ability to engage students of all ages. Dr. Kovacs is excited to be working with the Peace Academy because she wants to help young people begin to develop a sense of belonging to a common humanity.

Sandra Sarrouf is a cultural worker, arts advocate, educator, and community organizer. She received her MA in Cultural Sustainability and BA in Environmental Studies and Political Science with a minor Global Peace and Security through UC Santa Barbara. As a professional dancer, she harnesses the power of creativity and movement as tools to embrace diversity, build just communities and learn about our multicultural world. Sandra is passionate about cultivating deeper understanding of the varied ways we participate in culture and brings a multi-layered perspective to the table. As a Middle Eastern woman who immigrated to the U.S. at a young age, she offers tools for those seeking to build inclusion and cultural equity into their organizational framework. Her radiant joy and deep cultural pride is most evident in the vibrancy she brings as an instructor and performer in dance.

Stephanie Krouse is a freelance artist and credentialed teacher. Raised in Los Osos, California, she attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and received a BS degree in Ecology & Systematic Biology with a minor in Spanish. Doing art, caring about the natural environment, speaking in Spanish and serving her community have always been her passions. As an elementary school teacher she loves to help her students create art with positive messages that are inspiring and hopeful. She currently works in Santa Maria and prior to this position she was a dual immersion teacher in Lompoc. Krouse is fascinated by color and design principles. Her style combines pastel colors and realism. Her home studio, set as an island amidst row crops, in Guadalupe, is an ideal place for creating art. It is also in this location that she lives with her husband, two children and her two border collie puppies.

Brandon Hurd is an engineer (BS+MS) by training and an “ecologist cowboy” by self-driven interests to join the revolution in regenerating land and reconnecting with food. He is a part of The Lavra community farm as a garden and livestock manager and will receive his Permaculture Design Certificate from Santa Cruz Permaculture this spring. Currently, he is researching sustainable communities, agroecology, and ethnobotany.

To learn more about the Lavra, check out their website here.

Dee DiGioia is a Certified Mindfulness & Life Skills Coach and Educator and resides in Los Osos. After working with youth for over 35 years, including special education, Dee founded Mindful Kindful YOUniversity (MK YOU) ( to offer mindfulness-based social-emotional learning programs intentionally designed to address the challenges youth, and adults, face in school, and in life, which interfere with learning/working, relationships, and mental well-being. As an educator in the public school setting over the years, Dee believes mindfulness is an essential and missing piece (and peace) in our schools and in our communities today. By setting the intention to practice mindfulness and kindfulness in our daily living, we can plant the seeds for positive habits to transform our inner peace and happiness. As a result, each one of us is positively contributing to a thriving, resilient, compassionate and peaceful world beginning within ourselves, and positively impacting our relationships at home, school, and in our communities. Dee is overjoyed to collaborate with “Peace Academy” on this mission of inspiring our youth to become peacemakers.

Peace Academy of the Sciences and Arts
Tax ID: 83-0651198
PO Box 13024
San Luis Obispo, CA 93406