Some were stories that students had kept to themselves, but felt compelled to reveal in order to be part of the solution.
The effort was part of the National Campaign to Stop Violence's Do the Write Thing Challenge. The top essay writers from each middle school were honored at a luncheon Monday at the
"I want people to know what happened. I want to make a difference," said
Lesh's 21-year-old brother, Richard, was shot to death in a convenience store robbery when Lesh was only months old. Lesh hadn't told his classmates this story. While Lesh grew up with the grief of a brother lost, only when he sat down with his mother did he learn many of the details that he thinks important to share.
"I wonder if the killer would have made a different choice if he had pictured my family crying over Richard at his funeral? Would it have made him more sympathetic, knowing how many people's lives he was destroying? Maybe he would have a different perspective if he knew that over 11 years later we still think about Richard every day. This act of violence devastated my family."
The eighth-grader at
Thomas escaped by moving in with her father in
Lesh and Thomas earned top marks for their essays and will be the
"We can't arrest our way out of this," Bradshaw said. "Because gangs, they recruit kids." (Kids as young as 8 years old, he said.) And if it's not a gang problem, it's a drug problem. "Eighty percent of the 3,000 people in my jail are there because they bought, sold, used or robbed to get drugs."
Aronberg added his own daunting statistics: 4,407 crimes were committed by juveniles last year in
"It's too many," Aronberg said.
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