Two students from the western communities, Chad-Aaron Walker, a seventh-grade student at Western Pines Middle School, and Alphonse Alfred, an eighth-grade student at Emerald Cove Middle School, were among the top 10 students from the more than 27,000 Palm Beach County public middle school students who participated in this year’s Do The Write Thing Challenge.
They were honored at an awards ceremony and program at the Kravis Center of the Performing Arts on May 5.
Those in attendance offering their congratulations included Congresswoman Lois Frankel, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, Palm Beach County School Superintendent Wayne Gent, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and Palm Beach County Public Defender Carey Haughwout, along with Do The Write Thing Challenge Steering Committee Chair Bill Bone.
In his award-winning essay, Walker wrote about getting bullied in school. He was named first runner up.
“I get bullied in school for various things, such as my personality, religion and the way I dress. Most days in school, children make nasty comments toward me, especially because I am Jewish. I don’t understand why some people are treated differently if they participate in a different religious belief,” he wrote.
Walker added that he stopped wearing a yarmulke because of it. “I bet if the bully knew how that made you feel, he would stop. Believe me, if you stand up for yourself or tell a trusted adult such as a parent or guidance counselor, things will get better,” he wrote.
In his essay, for which he was award fourth runner up, Alfred described witnessing the shooting of his friend in Belle Glade. The friend died three days later. A couple of weeks after that murder, his friend’s uncle was also murdered.
“Seems what you care about gets killed right in front of you,” he wrote. “If I was old enough, I would build a program where kids could come to when they [have] nothing to do.”
He suggested that additional after school and extracurricular programs for teens in the Glades might help reduce the violence he has witnessed in his young life.
Alfred now lives with his adult sister in Wellington and is a star player on a travel basketball team, working toward a brighter future for himself and his family.
“The essays and poems written by the students were both heartbreaking regarding the physical abuse and mental anguish they experienced due to domestic violence and bullying, while at the same time inspiring to see how the students have positively addressed these challenges in their young lives and have committed themselves to helping others affected by violence and helping to prevent violence,” Bone said.
The 2015 Do The Write Thing Challenge is part of the National Campaign to Stop Violence.
ABOVE: Chad-Aaron Walker and Nichole Walker