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On Friday May 3, Esperanza Academy 8th grade student Jadrian Muniz-Colon and fellow student Sariyah Sanabria were honored at the School District of Philadelphia building as city finalists in the Do the Write Thing essay contest. The EA students were two of six finalists chosen out of over 400 students in the city, and Jadrian was ultimately selected as the winner of this year’s contest.

Upon receiving his award, Jadrian looked like he was in shock. “This is weird,” he said, “It feels good; it’s just weird.”

Calling a win weird may seem strange to some, but those who know Jadrian understand.

He is not a straight A student. In fact, he failed all his classes the first semester of this year. He ended last year on final warning. Yet, he is a brilliant and sweet kid and was placed in all honors classes this year because Esperanza believes that a student’s past shouldn’t dictate their future, and everyone should have the opportunity and support to pursue success. It has taken a team of teachers, counselors, administrators and Jadrian himself to get here: passing all his classes, winning essay contests, and making connections that will change the course of his future.

As the winner, Jadrian is now the National Ambassador from Philadelphia for Do the Write Thing. He was awarded a plaque, certificate, and gifted a new bicycle for his achievement. In addition, he will spend four days, expenses paid, in Washington DC this July where he will meet with the Supreme Court Justices and deliver his essay to them in person.

You can read an excerpt of his essay below:

“…With all these things going on at a young age, the mentality of survival of the fittest is instilled. Those who are strong are revered and those who are not are humiliated. Again, you ask me how do I feel about youth violence? I feel thankful, because of youth violence I was taught how to be ruthless when I needed to be.

How do I feel about youth violence in Philadelphia? I feel resentful towards youth violence as many friends of mine are affected by the constant bullying and torment on the daily. I feel that youth violence will never cease to exist as minorities are treated as if less than human.

I feel that youth violence in Philadelphia has robbed me of my humility. I feel wronged. I feel wronged as multiple people are driven to a path filled with confinement and segregation because of the things they experienced at a young age. I feel youth violence is the cause of the government not providing minorities with equality, and instead only providing a struggle and fight to prove that we are people too.

You ask me how do I feel about youth violence in Philadelphia? I feel robbed. Robbed of the liberties that this country has promised me. Robbed of my childhood. Robbed of the wonderful feeling of community. Robbed of education. Robbed of the ability to show weakness/emotion. I can’t be a child who cries. I can’t tell others how I feel. I cannot ask for the help of adults. I cannot be carefree. I cannot be me.

You ask me how I feel about youth violence? I can’t even say how I feel about youth violence. I’m tired. Tired of not being able to be myself, to blend into the norm. Tired of feeling useless. Tired of fighting for a better tomorrow. I’m tired of feeling weak. But what is strength?….”

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