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SISD students recognized for addressing youth violence in Do the Write Thing contest

Do the Write Thing contest winners

Twenty-six Socorro Independent School District middle school students were regional semi-finalists in the Do The Write Thing regional essay contest.

The contest is conducted by the National Campaign to Stop Violence, which positions students as community catalysts by examining and writing about the root causes and impact of youth violence.

“The Do the Write Thing essay contest is a great way for students to have a dialogue about solving the problems of violence and bullying,” said SISD social studies instructional officer Kimberly Baxter. “As middle school students become more independent, the opportunity to put down on paper how they should behave is important.”

Do the Write Thing, through classroom discussion and the writing of essays, teaches adolescents how to deal with anger, slights, bullying and other conflicts in a constructive way, without resorting to violence. The lessons also address resisting peer pressure, avoiding illicit drug usage and seeking help for family abuse, with an emphasis on personal responsibility.

The essay challenge is proactive, involving students, teachers, families, the community, civic groups, public officials and policy.

“This topic is important to discuss because so many students are experiencing this in their personal lives,” said Catherine Twomey, SSG Manuel R. Puentes Middle School journalism teacher and yearbook advisor. “If it’s not affecting them directly, they have a friend who it may be affecting. Violence and just meanness has gone up exponentially throughout our students' lives, more so than in generations past.”

The program develops student empathy, problem solving, coping, social, leadership and academic skills necessary to resist anti-social behavior. The emphasis on personal responsibility establishes a healthy learning environment, creates a sense of self-worth and the incentive to improve their society.

Puentes Middle School eighth grader Vanessa Orozco is one of the twenty-six SISD students who was recognized in the contest.

Orozco’s essay touched on two significant moments of bullying and violence in her life, an incident where she witnessed an adult abuse the power of their position and the 2019 Walmart shooting.

“What I liked most about doing this essay was being able to express how I truly felt, and I think that’s how it is with all writing,” Orozco said. “Sometimes talking to an adult can be intimidating, especially for someone my age and writing can help a student really explain how they feel.”

The semi-finalists were chosen for their impressive essays filled with solutions and innovative ideas about the challenges young people face due to the violence in society.

Briseis Romo, a sixth-grade student at Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, was another regional semi-finalist who wrote about an experience she had with bullying and how it was affecting her studies until she reported it to her teacher.

“I felt proud that I was one of the winners for the essay contest because people were aware of something that I wrote,” Romo said.

Romo’s teacher, Frances Rojas, an 8th grade social studies and 6th grade creative writing teacher, said the Do the Write Thing contest is in line the district's Social and Emotional Learning initiative, which helps students recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate care and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and constructively handle challenging social situations.

“It’s interesting how society has evolved within the past year, and I think our youth has seen so much out there either on social media, the news, or experienced in their own lives,” Rojas said. “They have a voice and I believe that we need to listen to our youth because they tend to experience this at an early age and sometimes teachers or parents might just think of it as a stage that they’re going through. In reality, some of our kids suffer from being victims of bullying or some of them are the bullies themselves.”

Orozco said she hopes the essays will inspire change when it comes to addressing bullying and violence.

“To know that my essay stood out among so many others was a really proud moment because that is saying that my words, experiences, thoughts, and opinions were really taken into consideration and really thought about,” Orozco said. “I hope that by reading my essay people will realize that it’s time to change and that they change their ways.”

Published June 15, 2021

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