Essayists voice concerns about violence

April 05, 1998|By TERESA DUNHAM

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two students who recently won awards for essays on nonviolence said they wanted to enter the contest because both have come in contact with fighting at school.

"A boy punched me, and I was suspended for defending myself. Luckily the suspension was taken off my record," says Allyson Orndorff, a seventh-grader at North Middle School in Martinsburg.

Allyson won first place in the middle school division of 1997 Project on Racism essay contest.

The contest, sponsored by Wheeling, W.Va., YWCA and Martin Luther King Jr. West Virginia Holiday Commission, was open to West Virginia students in grades one through 12.

Allyson, the daughter of Brenda Orndorff, believes people resort to violence because they don't know how to handle their problems.

Kristina McIntyre, also a student at North Middle School, placed third in the middle school division.

"I know people who have been in fights. I've seen girls fight at lunchtime," says Kristina, an eighth-grader.


Kristina is the daughter of Tracey and Wiley McIntyre.

Both girls were told about the contest by their Language Arts teachers.

In the essays, they were to answer the question, "Why is there so much violence today, and what can we do to stop it?" Ninety-six schools responded with 1,055 essays.

Kristina's essay was a last-minute idea.

Allyson says she was inspired by a television show on Nickelodeon. The show's topic was "Stop, Look, Listen." Allyson believes "if people would only stop, look and listen, violence would not happen as often."

Kristina says her school has programs to help prevent violence, such as peer mediation, where students can discuss their problems. She says students can be given out-of-school suspensions if they choose to fight instead of discussing their differences. She believes suspension is a good punishment because students learn from it.

Allyson believes suspension is a poor punishment.

"Suspension is what kids want so they can stay home, watch television and do what they please," Allyson says.

She thinks a better punishment would be to take after-school educational classes about violence.

"The students would not want to be there, but they could learn from it," she says.

Allyson attended the Project on Racism award ceremony in Charleston, W.Va. The ceremony included a recitation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, an oration by the governor and a reading of the first-place essays for broadcast on the West Virginia Public Radio program "Tuesday's Child."

Allyson also attended the Martin Luther King Celebration in Martinsburg in early February. She believes King is a good role model because "he fought with words instead of with his hands."

Allyson likes to write, compete on her school's swim team, play basketball, model for bridal shops, sing and act. She has been in "Beauty and the Beast," "Jack and the Magic Beans" and "Wizard of Oz." She would like to become a model or a pediatrician.

Kristina plays trombone in the school jazz band. She's on the yearbook staff and has participated in Math Field Day and the Golden Horseshoe competition.

Both girls believe the contest has taught them to become more aware of violence, and they hope their essays will encourage others to think before they act.

For information on how to enter next year's contest, call Susan C. Hogan at YWCA of Wheeling at 1-304-232-0511 or Greg Proctor at West Virginia Public Radio at 1-304-558-3000.

Teresa is a sophomore at Hedgesville High School.

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