At-Risk Teens Earn Place in Library of Congress

It is so important for young people to realize they have gifts.
The Reclaiming Futures site in Travis County, Texas is providing an opportunity for their young people to identify their gifts and express themselves through a nationally recognized program called Do the Write Thing Texas Challenge. The anti-violence and academic program provides middle school-aged youth the opportunity to think and write about the issues surrounding violence.
Students engage in thoughtful classroom discussions about violence -- its impact on their lives -- and solutions. Students then compose essay responses.  Community volunteers select a boy and girl with the most thought-provoking essays. National ambassadors, selected from the finalists, then have the opportunity to present their views on violence to national leaders like the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of the Interior, the Attorney General of the United States, the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Members of Congress. The essays of the National Finalist Ambassadors are published annually and placed in the Library of Congress.

It is also important to celebrate the small victories. Every student who submits an essay receives public recognition and support. Emmitt Hayes, director of the Probation Services Division Travis County, Texas, Juvenile Probation Department and Reclaiming Futures coach, appreciates the opportunity to show young people how to start with the end in mind to accomplish a goal. "Immediate gratification gets our kids in trouble. Do the Write Thing shows kids how they can generate immediate success from a product created solely by them." Mr. Hayes added, "Their parents also have reason to be proud. They get to see their children in a different light -- celebrated by the community." 
The participants in Travis County are also invited to ceremony, where they have an opportunity to practice their public speaking skills. The event gives them a chance to talk with judges and others about a topic that (finally) doesn't center around their behavior. The hope is for all participants to have their voices heard and their ideas valued, while supporting personal responsibility.
Image credit: Carol M. Highsmith, Aerial view of the Library of Congress 

juvenile-justice-system_Lori-HowellLori Howell is a Senior Associate at Prichard Communications. She is a seasoned public affairs practitioner with a background in public policy, fundraising, and education. Lori helps clients with online editorial services, media relations, and publications. Before joining Prichard Communications, she served as chief of staff for Greg Macpherson, a former Oregon state legislator, an account executive for the Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit educational testing consortium, and once taught English in Choshi, Japan.

Updated: August 02 2012