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Ultimate Peace promotes awareness through Frisbee

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By Nick Caamano

On March 27, the Grady ultimate Frisbee team hosted a group of teenagers from the Middle East, who were part of a coach in training program under the non-profit organization Ultimate Peace.  Ultimate Peace was established in 2008 as an organization that uses ultimate Frisbee to help structure community, unite people and educate youth around the world. The organization includes the coach in training program, a summer camp and year-round activities for youth.

The organizers of Ultimate Peace recruit youth from Palestinian, Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Jewish communities to learn, play and unite around ultimate Frisbee. Much of Israel experiences strong social barriers that UP works to break down. Kim Di Francesco, parent of sophomore Drew Di Francesco and a member of the Ultimate Frisbee Booster Club, was instrumental in bringing the Ultimate Peace players to Grady.

“It captured my interest, because I have two sons that love to play Ultimate. I wondered how they might like getting more involved,” Di Francesco said.

Since it was established in 2008, Ultimate Peace has worked hard to create the extensive coach in training program. Their idea was to build a three-year developmental program for the older participants, enriching their high school years by preparing them to be leaders and difference makers for Ultimate Peace, their communities and the world beyond. They help raise awareness about the Israel-Palestine conflict and promote peace in the area. As of 2014, the training program has 55 members.

During the second year of the program, the groups travel on a “friendship tour” to the United States to spread awareness for UP and compete with other teams. The tour director and Atlanta native Ben Spears contacted Kim Di Francesco for assistance for the team’s visit to Grady.

Spears became involved with the organization in late 2010 and became the tour director in 2011.

“They were recruiting coaches for Camp Ultimate Peace for the summer of 2011,” Spears said. “It took me just a couple days to realize this would be the perfect opportunity for sharing the sport I loved in a tumultuous region. So I said yes and loved every moment of my experience that summer of 2011.”

While the tour was in Atlanta, members of the Grady Frisbee community hosted coaches in training in their homes, cooked a team dinner, shared practice space, scrimmaged the UP ultimate teams, and coordinated a school assembly where the coaches in training could make a presentation which included a Q&A session with Grady students. Throughout the day, the CITs were able to see much of Grady and speak to many students.

Yonatan Caspi, an Israeli Jewish CIT member, provided insight about what it’s like to be in the program. He explained how he was able to forge lasting friendships with Palestinians that he otherwise would not have been able to make. He also mentioned that during the year they only get to actually play Ultimate Frisbee once a month and spend most time building values through leadership based activities.

UP is like a second family,” Caspi said.  “They always accept you and always smile. It’s always fun to hang out with someone that thinks the same thing as you.”

The program has significantly improved his ability to socialize and speak publicly.

“I love to speak in front of people,” Caspi said. “I learned how to speak in front of people and learned English through speaking with other members.”

Although he must serve in the army for three years after he graduates, Caspi hopes to continue his involvement with UP as a coach or in a higher position.

         Spears believes the Grady students’ involvement with UP’s friendship tour aided its overall success.

The friendship tour was super successful,” Spears said. “So many people supported Ultimate Peace during our visit to the U.S. We learned, again, that Atlanta is the perfect partner community for Ultimate Peace— UP leadership has come to agreement on Atlanta being the hub of any future friendship tours.”

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Ultimate Peace promotes awareness through Frisbee