2012 The Do the Write Thing Challenge (DtWT) an initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence
“We will use our WORDS, not our WEAPONS,” are a few of the words written by Kaleea Harrison of Pittsburgh Schiller Academy, that garnered her top recognition at the fifth annual “Do the Write Thing” dinner celebration, held at Duquesne University Power Center Ballroom. Kaleea was chosen as the first place female while Kenneth W. Minton III of Pittsburgh Classical Academy was chosen as the first place male out of 1,178 students who made submissions to the program about their thoughts on violence.
The Do the Write Thing Challenge (DtWT) is an initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence, which gives teachers the opportunity to have classroom discussions about violence and middle school students the opportunity to write about the impact of violence on their lives while making a personal commitment to reduce or eliminate violence. Pittsburgh became part of the national program in 2008 and continues under the leadership of founding co-chairs, Judge Dwayne D. Woodruff and his wife, Joy Maxberry Woodruff. Local co-coordinators are Lou Ransom, Jr. and Jenyce M. Woodruff, Esq.
Kaleea’s words were born out of the grief that she still feels, having lost her father to gun violence when she was only five years old. Her poem, Father Less goes on to ask the question, “How can any child be Father Less?” and ends with the admonishment to her peers, “We need to keep our heads in the book, turn a page.” An honor roll student at Schiller who likes to read, she has lofty career ambitions to become a homicide detective or lawyer in order “to solve crimes and put criminals behind bars,” she states. Similarly, Kenneth Minton III makes mostly A’s in subjects at school and has career aspirations to become a lawyer.
Notable Pittsburghers who are involved with stopping violence and adjudicating perpetrators provided remarks at the banquet, including Judges Kathryn Hens-Greco, Kathleen Mulligan, Kim Berkeley Clark and Coalition Against Violence Co-convener Tim Stevens. Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane did not offer remarks; however she smiled proudly and nodded her approval as each student came across the stage to receive their awards. Additionally, she took photographs of many of the winners and joined in for photographs with the first place male and female National Ambassadors who have won a trip to Washington, D. C. to represent Pittsburgh at the DtWT National Recognition Week in July.
For the first time since the program’s inception, the teachers and principals (in attendance at the banquet) of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place students received Visa Gift Cards to reward their efforts in facilitating and accommodating this extra component into their regular curriculum. Additionally, all teachers and principals (in attendance at the banquet) received DtWT golf shirts and tickets to a Pirates game.
The banquet, sponsored by HIGHMARK Blue Cross Blue Shield, was free of charge to the students, their teacher and two parents/guests. Participating schools were: Pittsburgh Public Schools, Woodland Hills School District and Penn Hills School District. The top two boys and two girls from each school were honored and received multiple prizes sponsored by UPMC Center for Inclusion and Diversity. Other DtWT program sponsors were Diehl Automotive (Butler, PA), the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and PA Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Pirates each provided tickets to the students and teachers for a select game. Giant Eagle also provided a multiple DVD pack to winners and teachers.
Among students, 2nd place honors went to Ashlee Bruecken (South Hills Middle) and Chris Kraemer (Colfax ALA) while 3rd place honors went to Tobias Mann (Carmalt Middle) and a 3rd place tie between Meg Cummings (Sterett Classical Academy) and Victoria Bistarkey (Linton Middle/Penn Hills).
The “Do the Write Thing” initiative will continue its efforts to raise the consciousness of middle school students who often know someone who has been personally affected by violence through a family relationship (as in Kaleea’s case), a friendship relationship (as in Kenneth’s case), or a community relationship. It will take principals, teachers, and involved parents working collaboratively to do everything in their power to offer positive alternatives to students as early as possible since it takes many strong influences to resist peer pressure, bullying, and negative role modeling.