At a conference on after school programming, I listened to a parent from the west side of Chicago tell the audience about a time she averted a tragedy in a gymnasium filled with youth. A boy was about to pull a gun, and the parent had no choice but to call upon rival gang leaders to settle the dispute before shots could be fired. She told of how her home was a safe haven for any child in the neighborhood to come and retreat from the line of fire.
Her home is probably 45 miles or so from mine. It may as well be 45,000. The environment in which she lives and rears her children is so unrelatable.
Chicago just logged its 500th gun related death this year.The answer to a problem this pervasive will have to have many components. Reaching the youth is one of them.
As part of the National Campaign to Stop Violence, Do the Write Thing is a youth anti-violence academic program that has been focused on this for fifteen years. More than just a writing contest, it is topical to young people and empowering. In thinking about violence, discussing it, and expressing their thoughts-the youth realize they themselves are a force for positively changing their own environment.
Do the Write Thing (DtWT)
- The program is designed for 6-8th graders
- Delivered at school, it can be presented as part of a writing curriculum or social studies course.
- Middle school students examine the impact that youth violence has played in their lives and write about it.
- They are encouraged to make a commitment to do something about this issue.
- Teens write an original essay, poem, fictional story or play in order to be chosen to represent their school at an awards banquet for 100 Chicago area winners.
- Ten finalists receive a trophy and two winners will achieve the status of ambassadors.
- Ambassadors attend the national Do the Write Thing summit in Washington, DC.
- The deadline for submitting writings is Friday, March 2nd
Robin Hulshizer, Chair of Chicago’s Do the Write Thing program explains that youth are asked to address a few questions in their writing. How has violence affected my life? What are the causes of youth violence? What can I do?
Hulshizer was deeply moved by previous winner Rashad Johnson’s writings, who lost a parent to violence. “It takes on another dimension when you hear the personal stories.” Last year more than 1,000 pieces of writing were submitted from thirty schools. Do the Write Thing hopes to reach more students.
DtWT sends information packets to schools. If a parent or educator knows of a school that has a bullying or violence problem, they can suggest to the principal that the program be implemented at the school or contact DtWT directly.
- Readers/Judges are needed to read the student’s submissions
- Volunteers will receive a set of 10 submissions
- It takes approximately one hour of time
- Volunteers evaluate the writing on a simple scale
“It’s interesting to see the perspective of students on violence from across the city. Some stories are sad and some are heartwarming. It is not just another writing essay. Young people really care and realize they can do something. They are empowered to make a difference”
A secondary goal of Do the Write Thing is to motivate adults to respond to words of these youth and work with them to reduce violence. Businesses can support the program as well through donations for the awards banquet or monetary support. Many program ideas that encourage adults to work with youth to stop violence have been the result of Do the Write Thing.
For more information or to volunteer visit www.dothewritethingchicago.org
To donate to the program, visit www.dothewritethingchicago.org/donate.
Readers, we can do the right thing by volunteering our time to these youth through Do the Write Thing.
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