50 Years of Peace

With 50 Stories & Snapshots

As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary, we are excited to share a collection of stories and snapshots that highlight the ways Peace has transformed thousands of lives.

1 Bonnie Billups, Jr.

Over the last 50 years, Peace has changed thousands of people’s lives—including mine. I’ve been at Peace most of my life. I will never forget my first introduction to Rose Martin, and all that I learned from her no-nonsense approach and steadfast commitment to helping people.

2 Rose Martin

Rose Martin, Peace Neighborhood Center’s longest serving Executive Director, left a lasting impression in our community and helped save hundreds of people’s lives. Her life’s work and philosophy continues to inspire us at Peace, and is central to our approach to helping people work to overcome extraordinary obstacles in their lives.

3 Snapshot from 1983

Executive Director Rose Martin touching base with Nondi Orazi, who served as Peace Assistant Director for 4 years.

4 ➧ 2020 Peace Parent of the Year

A dedicated and devoted parent, Aisha embodies the vision of Peace Neighborhood Center and all the hopes we have for our families.

5 ➧ 2020 Peace Outstanding Youth

We help young people find their greatness and celebrate their accomplishments. A model of positivity, hard work, and resilience, we know Blessing is poised to do great things.

6 ➧ Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson credits Peace Neighborhood Center with helping him find his voice and life’s purpose as an educator, mentor, and father. A “Peace Kid” and former Peace Program Director, he currently serves as a Program Manager for the Houston Health Department, where he develops curriculum for public school teachers on how to create a healthy environment that promotes positive behavior and helps prevent crime.

7 ➧ Nayan K.

As she starts a new career in a new city, a recent college graduate from Central Michigan shares her appreciation for the continuing support she received at Peace throughout her childhood and education, which made it all possible.

8 ➧ Kevin Hudson

Many of the lessons Kevin Hudson learned while working at Peace Neighborhood Center years ago still translate to his current work supporting students as a Class Principal at Pioneer High School.

9 ➧ Nicole Perry Banks

Nicole Banks, an Associate Dean at U-M, is grateful for the consistent investment Peace Neighborhood Center made in her at each level of her growth and education. “Always a Peace kid,” she has fond memories of the experiences that opened up new worlds to her, and credits the life lessons and values she learned at Peace, including fairness and a responsibility to the greater community, in helping to shape her career, “which is fueled by the values of access, diversity, inclusion and service to larger communities.”

10 ➧ Dee Burris

Thankful for the support she received as a young girl at Peace Neighborhood Center, Denis “Dee” Burris continues to stay in touch with Peace and Bonnie Billups. She also pays it forward professionally, working as a social worker with the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, Washtenaw County Child Protective Services.

11 ➧ Peace Summer Day Camp

Established in 1976, our Summer Day Camp is Peace Neighborhood Center’s longest-running program. Over the years, 1,703 young people have participated in our camp programs, where they have enjoyed a range of fun summer experiences, including: games & recreational activities, a variety of enrichment groups, and local field trips to zoos, parks and museums. All have opened up a wider world of new possibilities and experiences for youth they otherwise would not have the chance to explore.

12 ➧ Snapshot: Peace’s Ninth Grade Academy (est. 2014)

Helping Peace youth get to college starts early—by building a culture of academic expectations and achievement from 1st grade through high school and on to college.

Introduced in 2014 as part of Peace’s summer programming, Peace’s Ninth Grade Academy helps our 8th grade graduates successfully transition from middle school to high school, ready to succeed. During the summer, rising 9th graders are introduced to Peace’s College & Career Prep Club, where they learn specific study skills, what classes to take, academic expectations, extracurricular opportunities, and more. They also develop leadership skills as Peace’s “Counselors-in-Training”, where they have the opportunity to lead Summer Day Camp activities and mentor younger Peace youth. The ultimate goal: to ensure Peace 9th graders start high school ready to succeed academically and can participate in extracurricular activities—all so they have a well-rounded high school experience. One that positions them to succeed in college.

13 ➧ Peace Summer Camp seeds long-term friendships and future careers

Anabel Cruz and Raven Vawters first met thirteen years ago at Peace’s Leadership Development Camp (LDC), our summer program for middle school students. They both have fond memories of their time as teen camp counselors and the skills they learned. Today they both serve as Youth Program Coordinators at Peace and are looking forward to another fun summer at Peace—as colleagues.

14 ➧ Snapshot: Leadership Day at Summer Camp

Peace’s weekly summer programming features four themed days around Leadership, Field Trips, Extracurricular Clubs, and Adventure. So far this summer, middle school students in Peace’s Leadership Development Camp have connected with a variety of community partners to explore a range of topics, including puberty & consent with the Corner Health Center and the legal system & justice with Washtenaw County District Judge Miriam Perry. During the last week of camp, our middle school youth visited virtually with Google Ann Arbor employees to identify their individual strengths through a fun drawing activity and to explore possible career paths.

15 ➧ Transformational Road Trips

An important component of Peace Neighborhood Center’s summer programs is the opportunity for youth to explore new places beyond our local community. In previous summers, a select group of older Peace youth have had the opportunity to take an extended road trip across our country. Beyond fun, these road trips offer young people transformational experiences that have a lasting impact in helping to shape their identity and future.

16 ➧ Snapshot: Peace’s Fresh Air Camp

“Summer Day Camp at Peace has always been special! However, the best days—if you asked anyone who attended the nineties—was the end-of-summer overnight at U-M’s ‘Fresh Air Camp’. Every summer kids and staff would prepare for the three-day and two-night Peace Neighborhood Center takeover of the camp. This uniquely Peace Overnight Camp stay was always filled with swimming, boating, campfires, hikes, game nights, a dance, and night raids of cabins. Every trip, I would lead a group out to a clearing at about 1am, where we could lay in the grass and look to the dark sky and see more stars than they had ever seen before. Kids would claim stars as their own and make up names for their new celestial real estate. We would shine our flashlights to illuminate the night sky. On the last night we always had a marshmallow roast and scary story where a staff person, in hiding, would jump out at the story’s apex; and everyone would run to the main lodge thinking ‘Crazy Willie’ had come back to pull us into the darkness. (Maybe not PC now, but it was a different time 25 years ago). We would always get everyone home the evening of day three and unpack the vans. I would head home to sleep for 12 to 14 hours.

“U-M eventually stopped renting out Fresh Air Camp. Though we haven’t been able to create that overnight experience for all Peace Summer Day Campers, we are extremely proud of our over a decade partnership with both Washtenaw Camp Placement and the Ann Arbor YMCA, who provide full and partial scholarships to 25 Peace kids annually. With their help, Peace youth get to experience the magic of overnight camp in cabins and tell their campfire stories to their siblings and parents.” – Bonnie Billups, Jr.

17 ➧ Summer Camp Inspires New Interests and Opportunities

Peace’s Summer Camp programs connect youth of all ages to a range of extracurricular experiences and educational opportunities. Through a variety of opportunities offered at Peace, Ruhi discovered a passion for the arts and learned important leadership skills. This summer, with a letter of support from Bonnie Billups, the college sophomore brought all that she learned at Peace to a new role as a counselor at a YMCA overnight camp.

18 ➧ Snapshot: Overnight Camp Opportunities for Peace Youth

Thanks to our partnership with Washtenaw Camp Placement over the last 10+ years, a number of Peace youth have received scholarships to attend special overnight camps through Michigan—a unique opportunity for them to explore beautiful parts of Michigan, participate in all kinds of outdoor activities (from hiking to sailing!), and meet new friends from different parts of the country. For many, it’s the first time they’ve travelled away from home without their family. It’s a chance for them to be independent, explore new interests, and discover their personal strengths.

This summer, Washtenaw Camp Placement provided scholarships for 20 Peace kids to attend a range of Michigan summer camps, including: Mystic Lake YMCA Camp, Ann Arbor YMCA Camp Al-Gon-Quian, and YMCA Hayo-Went-Ha Camps. In addition to providing scholarships, Washtenaw Camp Placement also helps each family complete all the essential paperwork, facilitate purchasing any gear or equipment kids might need for camp, and helps secure transportation to camp where needed. All to ensure Peace kids have all they need to have a fun and complete overnight camp experience!

19 ➧ A Special Tutoring Relationship

Ruhi attended Peace’s after-school programs from kindergarten through middle school, and appreciates the academic support she received at Peace as a young student as well as the long-term relationships she developed. Now a sophomore at Grand Valley State, Ruhi still keeps in touch with the after-school tutor she worked with at Peace during her elementary school years―someone she continues to look to as both a mentor and friend.

20 ➧ Seeding Future Careers

Bree Picower first volunteered at Peace Neighborhood Center in 1991 during her freshman year at the University of Michigan—to fulfill a community service component for a class she was taking during her second semester. Though she doesn’t remember the particulars of that class, she definitely remembers her experience, and ended up working at Peace throughout her four years at Michigan. 

Today, Bree Picower is a nationally recognized educator who trains teachers across the country and is published widely in academic journals. As a Professor at Montclair State University in the College of Education and Human Development, Bree’s scholarship focuses on issues of race, racism, and education. She credits Peace Neighborhood Center and all that she learned from Bonnie Billups and her summer camp colleagues with helping to shape both her perspective on race and the trajectory of her career.

21 ➧ Snapshot: A Good Deed Rewarded

Back when Zaron was in elementary school, he spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. Teachers were unaware of the full context and assumed that Zaron was bullying other youth. It was later revealed that Zaron had befriended a Dutch exchange student and had been protecting the student from bullies. He later shared: “It was the right thing to do”—a takeaway from life lessons he had learned at Peace about respecting everyone and everything. 

The two boys, now in 7th grade, have stayed in regular contact, even after the exchange student returned home to the Netherlands. In appreciation for Zaron’s friendship and kindness, the exchange student’s parents invited Zaron on an all-expenses-paid trip to visit his friend in the Netherlands for three weeks this summer. Peace supported Zaron’s mother, who was understandably worried about her young son travelling solo across the Atlantic—helping her recognize what a life-changing experience this would be. In addition to Peace’s encouragement and blessing, we provided this young man with spending money to be sure he could bring home souvenirs for his family.

Zaron was immersed in the culture, landscape, and cuisine of the Netherlands—and even spent a week exploring Paris. What an unforgettable (and unexpected) reward for courageous action that had gone unrecognized for too long!

22 ➧ Saturday Reading Champions

In 2019, Peace introduced the Saturday Reading Champions Academy to help “champion” and strengthen early literacy at home for families with early elementary school children. Developed in partnership with the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), the five-week program invited Peace families to learn more about literacy and how they can help their children learn to read. Workshops gave parents special resources, strategies, and tools to support a range of literacy activities at home. The program had an immediate impact for Peace families. And teachers appreciated the chance to connect with parents outside of school on a personal level—which helped to build trust and reinforce that they’re all part of a team in their child’s education.

23 ➧ Academic Support at Peace

Academic support at Peace for youth from kindergarten through high school is an important part of the support that kids receive here. In the words of Bonnie Billups, Jr, “As a Peace kid, the expectation is that you will find your greatness, that you will set your own goal, that you will work hard, that you will continue to learn and build a path forward—supported by all of us here, your Peace Family.”

24 ➧ Snapshot: Holiday Toy & Food Distribution

Peace’s annual holiday toy and food distribution serves 300+ area families each year over four days. To help protect our youth & families, volunteers, and staff during the pandemic, we have employed the support of volunteer “shoppers” who shop from gifts laid out at Peace based on kids’ interests. Parents then drop by the Peace building briefly to pick up the toys and other items set aside for their family. From pop-it toys and remote control cars to baby dolls and arts & crafts, a variety of toys help make the holiday season bright for local kids. Peace also offers diapers, socks, coats, and other necessities, and gift cards offer parents the agency to select the items they need most for their families.

25 ➧ Snapshot: Unique Community Partnerships

It takes a village to wrap around our community. Peace is grateful for a wide variety of community partners who complement or contribute to our work. The Washtenaw County Health Department facilitated three COVID vaccination clinics at Peace in 2021. Countless community groups and churches contribute financial support and volunteer time to our summer youth programs and holiday toy drive. Girl’s Group, which has roots at Peace, has hosted Friday workshops in our space for many years, and several substance abuse support groups meet weekly at Peace. And the list goes on.

The New Year brought another unique partnership to Peace: on January 3rd, 2022, we hosted a special blood drive to support people living with sickle cell anemia in partnership with the Red Cross. Three current Peace kids are sickle cell-diagnosed, and two to three other Peace family members have passed away due to complications from the disease, so this is a very real disease for members of our community. This blood drive is just one of the many ways Peace partners help us holistically engage and impact our community!

26 ➧ Peace in One Word

Inspired by Peace’s 50th Anniversary, we asked a variety of Peace Family members what word they would use to describe Peace. Some answers: hope, home, love, transformational, and family. What’s yours?

27 ➧ Peace Beginnings

Peace Family members share Peace’s origin story. Founded back in 1971 in response to racial tensions in the neighborhood, Peace has been building community and changing lives for over 50 years.

28 ➧ Cultivating a Positive, Caring Culture

Peace staff work hard to create a safe, supportive environment where our youth and families feel comfortable and supported. Hear a variety of Peace Family members share their take on Peace’s culture.

29 ➧ Peace Values

At Peace, we recognize how important it is for our youth to explore who they are, who they want to be, and how they’re going to contribute to the world. Former Peace staff and Peace alum share some of the lessons they’ve learned from Peace in this video—from leading by example to recognizing the value in every soul.

30 ➧ Our Mission: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Through Peace’s holistic wraparound approach, our ultimate goal is to break cycles of poverty and empower our youth and families to build bright futures. Two Peace supporters and ambassadors share how they’ve seen that work in action.

31 ➧ Raylan Holman

Over the last 50 years, Peace has served as a second home to hundreds of Peace kids. Raylan Holman first came to Peace in 1976 as a kindergarten student. Throughout elementary and middle school, Raylan came to view Peace as a safe haven. He remembers how much the Peace staff really cared about him: what he had to eat, his behavior in school, his grades and who he hung out with. In every way, Peace served as a second home. After high school, Raylan volunteered at Peace to help out with everything from buying groceries and tutoring to picking kids up from school with the Peace bus. He went on to earn an undergraduate degree at EMU and an MBA from Columbia-Maryland. Today, Raylan continues to pay it forward as a grants administrator for a nonprofit. He credits Peace and the lessons he learned here with helping to shape his life: “Throughout my adulthood, I found myself leaning on the principles [I learned at Peace]. I am constantly guided by the many voices at Peace. Hard work allowed me to overcome obstacles in my life by being patient and focused. Whether it was in school, work, or family, I learned from Peace to remain determined to succeed.”

32 ➧ Teriana Sherrod

Teriana attended Peace programs as a young child. She always knew she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. After earning undergraduate and masters degrees in nursing, Teriana now serves as a nurse practitioner whose own four kids get excited about attending Peace’s Summer Day Camps. Teriana shares: “I feel like there were a lot of people here [at Peace] that I could look up to. I saw a lot of people who looked like me who were successful. . . . I always knew I wanted to go to school and I wanted to be a nurse . . having the support that I had here made me feel confident that I could excel because I could get the resources I needed..”

33 ➧ Creative Extracurricular Learning Experiences

In addition to after-school tutoring, Peace’s After-School Programs offer young people access to all kinds of creative and fun learning experiences. This semester, Peace middle and high school students have the opportunity to take piano lessons with an inspiring piano instructor — Michigan Emmy-nominated composer and keyboardist Levi Taylor. Passionate about supporting youth through local non-profit initiatives, Levi has offered free music lessons to underserved youth throughout his career. Peace is lucky to have Levi onsite at Peace this semester. We can’t wait to “hear” what Peace kids will be learning!

34 ➧ Karlos Harris

Peace alum Karlos Harris is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the Detroit School of Digital Technology. He shares his love and appreciation for Executive Director Bonnie Billups —and for all the ways that Peace has helped him and his family.

35 ➧ Carlos Vasquez

Carlos moved to the US from Honduras in 1988 with his family, and they found a place to live just up the street from Peace Neighborhood Center. Adapting to a new culture was hard as a young kid. And though he didn’t recognize it at the time, attending Peace’s youth programs with other neighborhood kids really helped Carlos get on the right path by providing a positive place to go to after school. He shares: “Peace Neighborhood gave people from my area hope and inspiration . . .[because] you can come to a positive place that allows you to see other positive things.” Today, as a husband, father, and a registered nurse at University of Michigan Hospital, Carlos serves as an inspiration to others. He notes: “If you catch kids at the right time and allow them to go down the right path, you’re basically changing everything they’re going to do in the future.”

36 ➧ Bryce Young-Walls

Bryce has been a Peace kid since he was five years old. He’s thankful for all the things Peace has helped him with over the years: “tutoring, helping me with reading fundamentals, allowing me to be a kid in an environment that might not have been the best environment at all times.” Today Bryce is a student at Grand Valley State where he’s majoring in Sports Management and plays on the GVSU football team as a running back. He really appreciates that he can still count on Peace and Bonnie’s support. He notes: “I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without [Peace].”

37 ➧ Snapshot: Family Night Fun

We’re always buzzing with activity at Peace. We offer many family-centered programming and activities, including monthly Peace Family Nights. In March 2022, we co-hosted with the Ann Arbor Art Center a particularly festive Family Night. Families had the opportunity to create illuminated puppets to parade in the Ann Arbor famous FestiFools weekend.

Share your favorite Peace memory!

Over the last 50 years, Peace has impacted thousands of people’s lives—not only the youth, adults, and families we serve, but also hundreds of volunteers, interns, staff members, board members, donors, and community members. 

We’d love to hear from you! Please share a favorite memory or your own connection to the Peace Neighborhood Center Family via the link below—whether you support us annually, volunteer, or have participated in Peace programs. We would love to collect at least 50 special moments and messages to share on our website and social media.

If you have a photo to share, please email your image to info@peaceneighborhoodcenter.org with “Peace 50th Anniversary” and your name in the subject line.

Invest in Peace's future and the people we serve

The impact Peace has had in thousands of lives would not be possible without the continuing generosity of supporters like you. Please consider supporting Peace’s 50th Campaign. Your gift will enable Peace to make important long-term investments in our programs, staff, and the young people and families we serve. Together, we can make our community better and break the cycle of poverty—one person, one family at a time.