Published On: Mon, May 7th, 2012

Boca Raton teen among Do the Write Thing Challenge “Ambassadors”

Ashley Coons, an eighth grader from Loxahatchee and David Dunleavy, an eighth grader from Boca Raton have been selected by the Palm Beach County Steering Committee of the National Campaign to Stop Violence as the first place “Ambassadors” for their efforts to stop youth violence in the Do the Write Thing Challenge.

Coons, who attends Western Pines Middle School, and Dunleavy, who attends Don Estridge High Tech Middle School, will be recognized with the other finalists Monday, May 7 at a luncheon at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach. Coons and Dunleavy will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. in July, where they and other “Ambassadors” from around the country will be honored in a national ceremony.

Ranked second among young women was Melanie Camejo, an eighth-grader from Lake Worth who attends Lake Worth Middle School, and third was Joy Sohn, a sixth-grader from Wellington who attends Bak Middle School of the Arts.

Howell L. Watkins Middle School sixth grader, Nathanael Sybron from West Palm Beach was ranked second among young men and Palm Beach Gardens resident Christopher Burrett, a seventh-grader at Watson B. Duncan Middle School finished third. All six student finalists will receive cash prizes.

From more than 19,000 Palm Beach County middle school students who participated in the Do the Write Thing Challenge, 210 were selected as finalists, who, with their parents, teachers and principals will attend the May 7 luncheon.

At the luncheon, a video will present the experiences of the top six recipients and ways they are stopping bullying and teen violence.

Dave Aronberg, from the Office of the Florida Attorney General and Superintendent of Palm Beach Schools E. Wayne Gent will address the audience. Pahokee native and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin will describe his early teen years and how he later achieved success through sports.

For the fifth consecutive year, the luncheon has been underwritten by West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals Corporation, North America’s largest sugar producer. More than 600 guests are expected at the Kravis event.

The William H. Pitt Foundation will provide $500 grants to the school principals who had the highest participation in the program. The law firm of Larmoyeux & Bone, P.L. is providing administrative support for organizing and directing the efforts of the Steering Committee.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has underwritten the entire cost of publishing all of the writings of the 210 students from the 21 schools who fully participated in the program.

The program gives Palm Beach County sixth, seventh and eighth grade students an opportunity to examine the impact of violence on their lives through written essays or poems reflecting on what they can do as individuals to reduce youth violence.

“The goal of the program is to reduce youth violence in schools, at home and in neighborhoods,” explained West Palm Beach trial lawyer Bill Bone, chairman of the local steering committee of the Do the Write Thing Challenge. “Many young teens have been bullied or stigmatized by the way they look or talk or act and that can be very traumatic sometimes resulting in enormous pain and even suicide.”

Not all students who submitted writings are at risk or have had experience with violence in their lives. Others may have witnessed it.

All of the entries were read by multiple panels of volunteer judges representing a cross section of Palm Beach County educators, law enforcement and judicial leaders. Submissions were evaluated solely for their content, not for grammar, spelling or structure.

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