Brought together by a hate crime: ‘Serve 2 Unite’ delivers message at Mount Horeb High School

Brought together by a hate crime: ‘Serve 2 Unite’ delivers message at Mount Horeb High School

Students from Mount Horeb High School invited members of the Milwaukee-based nonprofit “Serve 2 Unite” to speak Wednesday morning.

“I’ve heard lots of things over the years going to school here that have really bothered me,” said sophomore Sam Szalkowski. “I know there are lots of kids who feel like me who just want everyone to be kind to each other.”

Szalkowski first heard members of the nonprofit speak at the Monona Terrace in Madison in 2017. He and Levi, a friend from his English class, knew they wanted that message to be brought to their school.

The nonprofit was founded by Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was killed in the shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek in 2012. Six victims were killed by a white supremacist.

Kaleka teamed up with Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist and former lead singer of a white power skinhead band. During the speech in Mount Horeb, the duo referred to each other as “brothers.”

“It’s a beautiful thing that we were actually brought together by this hate crime,” Michaelis told News 3. “It’s an example that we can respond to the most horrific things we go through as human beings with the most beautiful aspects of our human experience.”

They now travel around Wisconsin delivering their message to students.

“I couldn’t even count how many schools we’ve been to but we’ve been blessed after the shooting happened to be able to respond to a lot of that,” Kaleka said. “We understand that mass shootings can be prevented with building environments of inclusion pre-emptively.”

After the two students invited the speakers to their school, Masood Ahktar — a leader in Madison’s Muslim community — asked them to serve on the advisory board of his group “United Against Hate.”

“We believe that if we continue this kind of education, continue bringing people together, then one day this hate will disappear,” Akhtar said.

Kaleka and Michaelis co-wrote a book called “The Gift of our Wounds.” It was released in April.