22 Feb 2014
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
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(Memphis, TN) - Chairpersons representing many American cities will meet in Memphis at the Peabody Hotel to discuss the future of youth violence prevention in the United States. The meeting was hosted by the chairperson of the Memphis Program, District Attorney General Amy Weirich and by Councilman Harold Collins, coordinator of the Memphis and Shelby County program.
The program known nationally as the Do the Write Thing Challenge involves thousands of volunteers in both city-wide and state-wide programs around the United States. The focus of the program is to learn from middle school students what they think causes a young person to become violent and then to take steps with those young people to prevent this from happening.
The Do the Write Thing Challenge (DtWT) was first conceived by Washington, DC attorney Daniel Callister in 1992. During a dinner conversation at home with his family he recounted a tragic news story he read of one seventh grader killing another in a fight over a pair of shoes . The conversation turned into a general question of why anyone would commit such violence. When he asked his children why some youth perpetuate such acts of violence they responded by simply saying "Why don't you ask them?" So working with friends and like-minded people in the area a new program was created to gather information on youth violence directly from the young people who were living with it daily.
Callister introduced the project to one of his clients, the Kuwait America Foundation, who became the founding sponsor of the challenge and who have remained its greatest support since its inception. The foundation was originally founded with the goal of fostering better grass root relationships between the two nations following the Gulf War and found in the DtWT program an opportunity to help people across the country. With this partnership a pilot program was started in DC, and it has been growing city by city ever since.
In the years since its inception the DtWT program has partnered with thousands of volunteers who work closely with the school districts. The local chair persons, also volunteers, include police chiefs, district attorneys, judges, partners with major law firm, and other prominent community leaders who care about young people and their future.
As of 2013 over 30 cities and states are involved with the program, and in the 19 years since it started over one million students have accepted the challenge to reduce the violence in their lives. The program areas include state-wide programs in Texas, Montana and Utah, and city programs in Atlanta GA, Boston MA, Charlotte NC, Chicago IL, Denver CO, Detroit MI, Jackson TN, Las Vegas NV, Memphis TN, Newark NJ, New York NY, Philadelphia PA, Pittsburgh PA, and Palm Beach County FL.