By David Karas, Correspondent Christian Science MonitorJULY 28, 2014

Two decades ago, punk rock musician Ivan Suvanjieff noticed some young men walking the streets of his Denver neighborhood carrying guns. Sensing that some of the teenage boys had dropped out of school to join a gang, he sought them out to start a conversation.

“I discovered that, while none of these teens knew anything about politics — or cared about politics — they had all heard about

[ArchbishopDesmond Tutu and the miracle of [peace coming to] South Africa,” Mr. Suvanjieff explains. “That gave me the idea of putting kids together withNobel Peace Prize winners — living examples of how anyone could work for peace, could make a difference.”

That conversation sparked a desire within Suvanjieff to help change the feeling among some youths of being helpless and hopeless into a sense of empowerment. He wanted to “help young people become effective agents of change,” he says. “I wanted to [help] them to channel any negative energy into a life where they’re working to tackle the tough issues facing them and their communities,” he says.

Today, Suvanjieff is co-founder and president of PeaceJam, launched 18 years ago with the backing of 13 Novel Peace Prize winners – including the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu – who work through the organization to mentor, inspire, and guide youths to take action to address some of the most pervasive and far-reaching problems facing their neighborhoods and the global community as well.

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