Working for harmony, a person at a time
By Anne Davis
June 30, 1997
Cedarburg -- Someday he may be designing buildings, but for now 18-year-old Everett Kubala is content with less tangible creations such as harmony, tolerance and understanding.
"I make a point of getting to know people," said the recent graduate of Cedarburg High School, who received the school's first Peacemaker award.
"Almost everyone can be real nice. If people just get to understand each other better, I think the world will be a better place."
Sponsored by a group of local churches and faith communities, the award was created this year to honor a high school senior for promoting tolerance and peace at school and in the community.
Kubala was recognized in part for his work with the school's Bridge Builders club, which emphasizes accepting diversity.
Such efforts are important in Cedarburg because it is such a homogeneous community, Kubala said.
"I don't really feel that everybody is really, really prejudiced," he said. "It's just uneasiness, not being comfortable with differences."
To help break down those barriers, Bridge Builders held a student exchange with Nicolet High School and made two trips to a senior citizen residence in Milwaukee.
Making connections on an individual level tends to have the most impact, he said.
He cultivates friendships with different kinds of people and makes it clear to all his friends that he does not believe in making fun of others.
"Peacemaking can just be everyday stuff, leading by example, nothing extravagant," Kubala said. "Just giving respect, just being real humble. I see myself as being humble. I put other people before myself."
His interest in service was another reason he received the Peacemaker award. Instead of going on to college immediately, Kubala hopes to spend next year volunteering at the world headquarters of the Bahai faith in Haifa, Israel.
Undertaking such a year of service is traditional among Bahai youth, although not obligatory. the Bahai faith was founded in the 19th century in Iran.
World peace, unity among all people and religions, universal education and equality of genders are prime tenets of the religion.
Kubala visited Haifa two years ago with his older sister. He was struck by the beauty of the gardens around the Bahai center and hopes to spend his time working there. He also hopes to meet visitors from around the world.
If he is not able to go to Haifa, Kubala plans to spend the year working at a Bahai school in South Carolina.
The year away should give him time to decide on a career. As the son and grandson of architects, building is in his blood and he currently plans to study architecture at the University of Minnesota.
But he is open to other options, as long as they fulfill his long-term goal.
"I want to do something that will affect the world on a larger scale," Kubala said.
©Copyright 1997, Journal Sentinel