More than 800 Freeport Village students, clergy, elected officials and community and school leaders gathered Saturday for the fourth annual peace march and health fair, to help promote tranquillity and wellness.
The crowed huddled on the Freeport High School field to form the peace sign, with the word also written in large block letters on the grass.
"What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" the group chanted.
"This is Freeport's version of 'it takes a village,' " said Nassau County Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), referring to a proverb about what a community needs to grow its children and thrive. He was joined by Assemb. Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook), Hempstead Town Councilwoman Angie Cullin and village trustees. "It takes one person at a time."
The three-hour event was capped by a nearly mile-long walk through Freeport, ending back at the high school.
"This is a great exposure for kids to stand and march for something that is positive," said Freeport resident Maryam Muhammad, 30, who walked with her daughter, second-grader Nyla Brown, 8. "There is trouble everywhere you go, but there are people who stand for peace and are good."
The village of 42,860 people had a total of 210 violent crimes in 2007 compared with 174 in 2011, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
"Peace begins with us," said Freeport schools Superintendent Kishore Kuncham, who launched the march after he became the district's leader four years ago. "Something doesn't have to happen to ask for peace."
Lachaye Allen, 16, a basketball, lacrosse and tennis player at Freeport High, said the march shows outsiders that the community can coalesce. "We are pushing the idea of peace," Allen said.
Inside the school, students from the district's six elementary schools, one middle school and one high school, along with their parents, enjoyed free events and learned health tips from the fair's more than 20 vendors. Health care providers performed basic screenings, led cardio workouts and provided information about leading a healthy lifestyle.
"By bringing the students and youth together, we're hoping to point them in the right direction in the future," Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said. "This is a perfect way."