Memphis kids earn trip to D.C. for speaking out against violence

Essay contest part of campaign to stop violence

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Two-thousand Shelby Co. kids wrote essays about how violence has affected them. Two of those essays won students a trip to Washington D.C.

Jared Rawlings is one of thousands of kids who are impacted by violence in Shelby County. He decided to write about it.

“We can all put a stop to violence if we just keep a focused eye out,” Rawlings wrote in his essay called Violence can turn your life around.

“We read these essays and see how many kids are personally touched by violence,” Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said.

Jared and 2,000 other Shelby County students entered the national essay contest “Do the WRITE Thing” sponsored by the National Campaign to Stop Violence, and locally sponsored by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office.

The assignment: to write about when you were impacted by violence and what you would do about it in a leadership role.

Rawlings, who wrote his essay as an eighth grader at Colonial Middle School this year, is one of Shelby County's winners. He chose to write about coming across the scene of where Officer Sean Bolton was shot and killed.

“A wave of blue lights caught my attention,” Rawlings wrote. “At the time I felt unsafe. I felt like I couldn’t just go out anywhere and do something like a normal person.”

Ridgeway Middle School student McKenzie Leaks also won. She and Rawlings will leave for an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. this weekend. Their essays will be housed in the Library of Congress.

“There is a benefit to hard work,” Weirich said. “There is a benefit to staying on the right track and getting an education.”

WMC Action News 5 reached out to McKenzie’s family, but did not hear back. We congratulate her and Jared on this accomplishment.

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