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Do the Write Thing Amplifies the Voices of Chicago’s Middle Schoolers

Each year, young people across the city respond to the call to end youth violence through the Do the Write Thing challenge.

An initiative through the National Campaign to Stop Violence, Do the Write Thing is a national writing program that empowers middle-school students to examine the impact that youth violence has on their lives, communicate what they think should be done to reduce youth violence, and become catalysts for change.

More than 85,000 students across the country participate in the program and reflect on their role in society, as well as the power they have to change their environment.

They share their ideas in an original essay, poem, fictional story, or play, and a team of volunteers selects two students from their local community to serve as ambassadors to the national Do the Write Thing Summit, held in Washington DC.

For 4 years, Communities In Schools (CIS) of Chicago has co-sponsored Do the Write Thing with Latham & Watkins in Chicagoland. This year, Summer Bell and Jaylen Trice, students from two of our South Side partner schools, were selected from among 800 students to serve as Chicago’s ambassadors to the National Summit.

CIS’ Chief Partnership Engagement Officer, Robin Koelsch, attended the Do the Write Thing Summit and joined the 2023 student ambassadors, Jaylen and Summer, on the three-day experience.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at their visit to the nation’s capital:

Students arrive at hotel

Our Do the Write Thing Chicago ambassadors, Jaylen and Summer, arrived to DC, ready for the Summit to begin!

Students receive business cards

At the orientation breakfast on the first day, all Do the Write Thing ambassadors received their very own business cards to help them create more connections across the country.

Students at dinner

That night, the Residence of the Ambassador of Kuwait hosted Summer and Jaylen for a recognition dinner. The Kuwait-America Foundation is the founder and primary sponsor of Do the Write Thing. The program was created out of their desire to reduce youth violence in communities across the U.S.

Students with certificates

Jaylen and Summer received certificates of recognition by the Ambassador of Kuwait.

Group from Chicago tours capital

Day 2 included a tour of the nation’s capital. Summer and Jaylen — along with their moms Autumn and Tiffany, Robin (CIS of Chicago), Ms. Lanier (the counselor from Woodson Elementary School), and Ms. Foreman (the assistant principal from Eberhart Elementary School) visited Capitol Hill with the students and toured other major sites.

Students at the senator's office

Then, the students had the opportunity to meet with Illinois Senator Durbin’s legislative staff and share their thoughts on violence reduction. Do the Write Thing is all about amplifying student voice, and Jaylen and Summer had their ideas heard.

Student leaves Supreme Court

Day 3 included a visit to the Supreme Court. Summer was one of four student ambassadors to read her piece in the West Conference Room in front of an audience of all the Do the Write Thing student ambassadors, two law clerks of Justice Thomas, and Cheryl Jones, Deputy Administrator at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Book of student writings

After the Supreme Court, Jaylen and Summer headed to the Library of Congress, where the leather-bound book of all Do the Write Thing ambassador submissions is placed. Jaylen and Summer became published authors, with their work now housed in the largest library in the world.

Students with keynote speaker

Finally, the ambassadors attended a dinner ceremony at the National Press Club, where each student read an excerpt of their work. G. Lamar Stewart, Chief of the Community Engagement Unit at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, served as the keynote speaker.

Plane in flight

The students left DC and headed back to Chicago. After three inspiring days at the Do the Write Thing Summit, Jaylen and Summer expressed interest in volunteering for the program and potentially supporting the Do the Write Thing Recognition Week as interns.

We can’t wait to see the amazing things that 2023 ambassadors Jaylen and Summer will go on to accomplish this school year and the change they will make in their schools and communities.

To learn more about Do the Write Thing and how you can get involved, visit https://www.dtwt.org/.

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