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Students Voice Empowerment Over Violence

WASHINGTON (September 11, 2012) – As the school year begins, parents, teachers and administrators will renew their focus on the problem of youth violence in our schools. The National Campaign to Stop Violence, which has worked on the problem for 16 years, last month held its “Do the Write Thing” Challenge Program. Fifty-five student national ambassadors were honored in Washington, representing the more than 60,000 students who participated.

Several student national ambassadors read excerpts from their essays at the Library of Congress and Supreme Court. Their writing illustrated how violence has affected their lives and how it has in turn empowered them to work towards reducing violence in their schools, homes and communities.

“The only way to stop [violence] is to just stop, stop participating and set a better example,” said Winifred Duncan, a student national ambassador from Austin. Other students offered ideas for empowerment: “Encouraging volunteer work is the best way to reduce violence at a community level” David Dunleavy, student national ambassador from Palm Beach, said.

At the end of the week, the students presented a leather-bound collection of their writings to the Library of Congress, ensuring that their words will be available to future generations.

The student national ambassadors also visited Capitol Hill, where they met with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Jon Tester (R-MT) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) as well as Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). During the visits, the students were able to express their thoughts on the current causes of and solutions to youth violence.

The Embassy of Kuwait and the Kuwait-America Foundation hosted the student ambassadors, their parents and teachers, school district representatives and committee chairs from 29 participation cities at a reception and dinner at the Kuwaiti Cultural Center. During the reception, Dr. Abdulazeez Al-Omar, Cultural Counselor at the Embassy of Kuwait, extended his thanks to the students: “What you have said, done and written has taken a lot of bravery and a real strength of character.” The Kuwait America Foundation has been a primary sponsor of the National Campaign to Stop Violence since its inception 16 years ago.

The National Recognition Week culminated in a reception dinner and ceremony held at Union Station and attended by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Sen. Brown, Rima Al-Sabah, wife of the Kuwait Ambassador in Washington, and the Kuwait-America Foundation’s chairmen Dr. Hassan Al-Ibrahim and Dan Callister. Under the slogan “Stand up, don’t stand by” students presented their ideas on the causes and solutions of violence. They encouraged attendees to stand up if they wanted to live in a world free of violence and its adverse effects. Nancy Cordes, a CBS News Congressional Correspondent, was event emcee, while Carole Geithner, a clinical social worker who has worked with children, teens and adults as a counselor and therapist, served as keynote speaker.  The night’s musical guest was Ayla Brown, recording artist and American Idol semifinalist, while Harlem Globetrotters Special K Daley and Flight Time Lang also attended the event.

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