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Taking up the pen

A small California charter school has taken a hard stand against a far-away civil war.

Students and school officials at Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter School in San Luis Obispo declared the school a "sovereign education nation" and began a "full-scale peace offensive" against the Central African nation of Burundi in defense of a student and her family.

Several months ago, Prosper and Alice Gahungu and their three children fled their homeland, where thousands of people have been massacred in a civil war between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis. Their oldest child, Alexandra, is in kindergarten at the school that opened in September.

The school will fly the Burundian flag upside down in the universal symbol of distress until the fighting stops and good-faith negotiations begin.

The 109 students in the K-6 school have vowed to write letters of support to Burundian families and send in-kind humanitarian aid. They also have requested a meeting with Burundian and United Nations officials.

"History would encourage us to believe that the course of human events has not really been changed as much by armies and legislatures as it has by hearts on fire and groups of small individuals," said Paul D. White, the school's principal.

A cup of joe

Within the walls of Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville, Ill., students can sample geometry and literature along with a cup of roasted coffee.

With the help of the school's food-service company, Dundee-Crown transformed the student lounge and last month opened the doors of its own coffeehouse. Young patrons can order lattes, cafe mochas, cappuccinos, or just a plain old cup of joe while studying or relaxing.

"Food service took care of all the expenses," said the school's principal, Robert Whitehouse.

A team made up of students, teachers, parents, and community members--as well as food-service director Les Boeder--got the project brewing.

So far business has been brisk. The coffeehouse operates in the mornings before class and during lunch. Students shell out anywhere from 55 cents to $1.50 to get their daily caffeine or decaf.

The idea has been well received by the school's 1,700 students, Mr. Whitehouse said. But "the older students are certainly much more into it."

--KATHLEEN KENNEDY MANZO & ADRIENNE D. COLES

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