Camelot Students Recognized in City-Wide Writing Contest
Two Camelot middle school students have won big honors for doing the “write” thing. Danielle Blackstock and Desmond Farlow, who were both recently promoted to high school from Excel Middle Years Academy in Philadelphia, were recognized as winners in a city-wide writing contest called Do the Write Thing.
The question the students were asked to write about: How does violence affect you?
“All of our students have endured some kind of trauma in their lives,” said Excel Middle Years Executive Director, Sadiqa Lucas. “And when it comes to violence, kids will pick up their paper and soon start writing. Once we introduced students to the contest, they wanted to participate.”
Danielle and Desmond, who were the only winners representing an alternative education program, were able to share their experiences through the prestigious competition.
“I was really shocked when I won, and I just felt that I must have written something that sparked something in somebody, because I never thought that my words could go deep like that,” Danielle said. “I didn’t think I would get chosen for something like this. I’m really thankful.”
Danielle said writing her essay was an outlet for her.
“Putting my thoughts on paper helps me express myself, because when I think about it, I can bring it back and maybe help somebody. I want people my age to understand that after you fight, you just get into trouble. Nothing positive comes from fighting, so I don’t think it’s necessary, and I just want people to realize that.”
Desmond said he too was surprised by the recognition.
“When my mom got the email from Ms. Lucas, she asked me, ‘did you know there was a contest’? I said no – I thought it was just a topic in health class, but it wound up turning into a contest, and I was really shocked when I won.”
Desmond wrote about where the violence comes from, saying you almost can’t escape it.
“We can see it on any street corner, we hear it in our music, we see it in our schools, we see it in our houses, and I talked about how it happens behind closed doors,” he said. “I can come to school with the biggest smile on my face, and no one would know if I am being abused at home. I wrote that we should still be able to do what we like and listen to the music we like, but I also feel we need to have a broader range of what we listen to and who we associate ourselves with. My grandmother used to say, ‘If you show me who you hang out with, I’ll tell you who you are.’ I could hear her words as I was writing because if you hang out with all the bad kids, you’ll most likely get into fights and arguments, but when you hang out with more of the better kids, you’re not into situations like that.”
Ms. Lucas says Danielle and Desmond are two very unique students.
“They are true examples,” she says. “They have both endured trauma and were able to put their thoughts on paper to help others in similar situations. They are true gems to our school.”
Lucas added that seeing the heights her students can reach is what motivates her and her team.
“If we can reach one student, we can reach more than one. As an educator, it’s the small things; it’s the rewards. It’s seeing a student that’s afraid to write have the courage to express themselves so that we can support them socially and emotionally so they can be successful academically.”
As for Desmond, a straight-A student, he finds writing liberating.
“I like that no one can tell me what I write is wrong, and no one can read it and say it was bad. Whatever they say, I know that whatever I write is right for me.”