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This past week I heard a man named Paul Peck speak. He talked about watching the riots in Los Angeles in April of 1992 following the acquittal of the four white officers who beat Rodney King. Paul watched in horror as African Americans burned down their own communities and businesses, but instead of judging them harshly, Paul thought, “The only way you would destroy your home is if you have no hope.”

Then Paul went to the next step: How do you find hope? He concluded that education was the best first step to hope. With education there was hope for a better future. That year, Paul Peck began the “STAR” Scholarship Foundation. (STAR stands for Stand Tall and Reach.) It is an all-volunteer, non-profit initiative that provides a roadmap to a better life through teaching that studying pays and life is merit-based. It gives scholarships to African-American and Black students starting in the 6th grade. The scholarships are based on grades and essays. For middle school students, the awards are between $25 and $150. When the students reach high school, they can begin earning scholarship money of up to $3000 for college or trade school. Paul says you can change a life for as little as $25 because that money brings positive recognition and encouragement. Ninety-eight percent of all the funds generated by the STAR Foundation goes to scholarships. (I have put materials about STAR in the narthex in case you would like to know more.)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Paul Peck is how normal he is. He is just like you and me, but he is changing lives. He is in the same business as our Lord and Savior. He is helping young people turn from despair to hope, from crime to responsibility, from fear to understanding. Not only did Paul stop and turn when he saw what was happening in Los Angeles in 1992, he found a way to turn around the lives of young people. He is an amazing man who is making an incredible difference because he turned, he repented.

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