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Student Voice Inspires All at Big 2024 DTWT Dinner

Student voice was at the forefront on May 7, when Communities In Schools of Chicago and Latham & Watkins LLP co-hosted the annual Do the Write Thing (DtWT) awards dinner at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  One hundred middle-school students from schools across the city were honored for the power of their essays, poems, and other written works, all of which addressed the questions of: How does violence impact our communities and what can we do to make a positive change?

Overall, 800 Chicagoland students participated in Do the Write Thing during the 2023-24 academic year. Students Write, We Listen is the tagline of DtWT, and on this night that was certainly true!

Here are some highlights from what was a very inspiring evening.

A night to celebrate student voice

In addition to the student honorees, parents, teachers, principals, community partners, and even a couple beloved mascots came out to the University of Illinois at Chicago to celebrate the conclusion of a year-long effort to showcase the opinions and ideas of our students on a subject that matters to so many of us: community violence. Chicago is one of more than a dozen communities coast-to-coast that participate in the Do the Write Thing Challenge each year to amplify student voice and advocate for positive change.

We were thrilled that the Bears and White Sox showed out by sending Staley and Southpaw to the dinner to cheer on our students and their families! It makes such a big difference when our local professional sports teams back our efforts. Thanks, you two!

the 2024-25 Dtwt ambassadors are named!

Ten students among the 100 in attendance were recognized for their compelling written works. Of that special group, two very talented students – Beautiful Pearson of Parker Elementary School and Rylei Thompson of Dixon Elementary School – were named Chicago’s Do the Write Thing ambassadors for 2024-25 based on the exceptional power of their essays.

Both Beautiful and Rylei will travel to Washington, D.C. this summer to the Do the Write Thing National Summit. There, they will link up with ambassadors from other DtWT communities across the United States to raise awareness about violence in America’s communities and help catalyze solutions to this existential challenge. A highlight of the Summit will be when the students visit the United States Library of Congress, where their written works will be shelved in a special bound volume. 

Nneka Gunn, principal of Eberhart Elementary School (below, right) was thrilled to learn that her school was one of several to be awarded a special $1,000 gift to help support enrichment programming for students. From surprise donations to schools to special awards for exceptional student writing, it was a special night in the West Loop.

Kareem “KWOE” Wells (below, center) was the keynote speaker for the DtWT Dinner. He shared with attendees a very personal story about the struggles he overcame in his youth and early adult years living on the West Side of Chicago to eventually become a renowned DJ, musician, and entrepreneur. The Happiness Club (below, left) provided a high-energy performance during the dinner. All evening long the attendees had great reason to get pumped up (below, right) – because all the students and their written pieces were so inspiring. 

Congratulations and thanks to many

Congratulations to all the awesome students who participated in Do the Write Thing this year. We are so proud of your accomplishments. Big shoutout as well to all the volunteers, sponsors, essay readers, and members of the CIS and Latham & Watkins, who worked so hard to make DtWT 2023-24 and the Awards Dinner a great success and amplify our students’ voices. We can’t wait to do this again next year!

Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Follow the latest CIS news and learn more about our impact on Chicago’s young people!

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