United States – 09-11-2019 ( —  Special initiative of Operation Respect recognized for channeling music for change, advancing a movement in the wake of mass shootings and nationwide gun violence


The Parkland Project, a special initiative of Operation Respect, received the Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award on behalf of the entire Parkland community todayfor its groundbreaking, movement-building efforts to mitigate gun violence, most profoundly in the utilization of music as a creative channel for change.


The honor was bestowed to students of Parkland, Florida, impacted by a mass shooting on Valentine’s Day of 2018, who subsequently inspiredand rallied the nation and world throughtheir collective calls for change. The award was presented at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, home to the WORLDZ summit, a convening of top executives representing Fortune 500 companies, world brands and creative, forward-thinking teams of innovators.


The Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award recognizes the next generation of change leaders, embodied by those carrying on President Mandela’s legacy of peace building, advocacy and social justice.


Receiving the honor, students of The Parkland Project shared their personal accounts and performed one of their songs, The Children Will Lead the Way, to an audience of nearly 3,000 conference attendees profoundly moved by the message and music.


“We applaudthe brave and bold changemakers of The ParklandProject as its leaders battleone of the most ruthless demons facing our youth today. It is through their voices and their actions that we may all one day see gun violenceeradicated,” said RomanTsunder, CEO and co-founder of WORLDZ.


“Receiving the Nelson MandelaChangemaker Award is a true honor and reminder to never cease in the pursuit of justice,” said Marisol Garrido, 17, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A poet, lyricist and bass guitar player, Marisol lost two friends in the violence. “Mandela, a man who sacrificed his own freedom in his fight against oppression, serves as an inspiration to anyone who combats the issues of today with hope and determination for the future.”


“We are so proud of all the students in our community for coming to the forefront and fighting for change,” said Sofia Rothenberg, 15, singer-songwriter and sophomore class president of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“We thank WORLDZ for giving such an amazingaward to the students of Parkland,” added Payton Francis, 16, songwriter and lead vocalist of The Children Will Lead the Way.


“There is no greater privilege or obligation at this moment than traveling the country with these inspiring young voices who are calling us all to listen and, with a real sense of urgency, act” said Operation Respect Executive Director John McKenna. “We seek partners to help elevate these voices now that their songs will soon be available to all. Our goal here at WORLDZ, and everywhere, is to connect in solidarity to help the youth advance this important mission.”


“These are children processing trauma by delivering songs they have written,” McKenna added. “They are so generous with their time and talents – on the road, juggling studies and schedules, in cars, on red-eye flightsand stages – to make this world heal. I see Mandelasmiling in heaven. As he said, ‘A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.’ These children are singing, ‘Can you hear us now?’”


The Parkland Project, launched in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, killing 17 people and wounding 17 more, is a creative collaboration of student-songwriters, musicians and vocalists from the Parkland community unifying their collective feelings,emotions and voicesin a call for peace and justiceto prevail. Widespread trauma in the community remains a significant concern. The student- songwriters of The Parkland Project are committed to personal and community healing, while advocating to prevent future acts of gun violence via the amplification of their music. The songs, written and composed by the students with the guidance of professional music producers in the Operation Respect organization, have completed their album, Wake Up, America, with a release date scheduled for late October.The songs will be availableon all streaming and digitalplatforms, including Spotify and Apple.


For more information, please contact:

John McKenna, Operation Respect, [email protected] , 866-546-9291

Juilie Mathis, WORLDZ, [email protected] , 310-428-5305


About Operation Respect and The Parkland Project

Operation Respect is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing children and youth educational training and experiences that can help them become compassionate, respectful, ethical and civically engaged adults. To help create and sustain positive school climates, Operation Respect incorporates Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curricula blended with community-building music in its free Don’t Laugh at Me program. Over the past two decades an estimated 22,000schools have utilizedthe program throughout America and the world. Operation Respect’s tools help to foster peace, acceptance and harmony amongst children and youth, as well as adults who inform and influence their lives. Launched in 2000 by co-founders Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary and Dr. Charlotte Frank,senior advisor at McGraw-Hill Education, Operation Respect’s inspiring music, socialand emotional learningcurricula and multicultural


videos teach students to resolve conflict peacefully, celebrate diversity completely and engage with each other genuinely in a spiritof caring, compassion and cooperation. Over 200,000 copies of the Don’t Laugh at Me program have been disseminated to educators throughout the United States and internationally, with over 50,000 educators participating in professional development workshops worldwide. Since its inception, over a half-million educators, educational leaders, parents, students, policy makers and community members have attended presentations by Operation Respect leaders. Over 900 New York City schools have sent teams of educators to participate in workshops, and since 2005 Operation Respecthas partnered with the NYC DOE to provide anti-bias Respect for All training for teams of educators from all elementary, middle and high schools in New York City. Operation Respect formed UnitedVoices for Education, a coalition of 42 educational organizations dedicated to advocating  forthe  education  ofthe  whole  child. Operation Respect co-produced A Tribute to the Teachers of America and, in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, produced Concert for Newtown to help bring strength and unity to the brave and grieving community of Newtown as well as the nation. Both programs have aired on PBS throughout the United States. Operation Respect produced The Parkland Project,a student-led songwriting initiative launched in the aftermath of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman DouglasHigh School in Parkland, Florida,culminating in the album Wake Up, America.The album, to be availableon all streaming and digitalplatforms, is scheduled for full release in late October 2019.


About WORLDZ and the Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award

WORLDZ is a summit and community for marketers and innovators. It has been named a “Top 5 Leadership Conference That Should Be On Your Radar” by Forbes, for the last two years. WORLDZ’s eclectic, intimate, immersive experiences are created and led by influential business leaders, cultural icons and each other. Members are part of an engaged, year-round community of peers and mentors that are shaping the future of culture. WORLDZ was founded by Roman Tsunder and James Sullos.


The Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award is given each year in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to recognize the next generation of change leaders – those carrying on President Mandela’s legacy. Award winners paint the picture of a gracious, resilient, thoughtful and optimistic idealist – one of those rare historical figures who improvedthe moral arc of human history.

Media Contacts:

Company Name: Operation Respect
Full Name: John McKenna
Phone: 8665469291
Email Address: Send Email

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