Catholic schools were well represented among the six overall winners in the annual “Do the Write Thing” Challenge, an initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence.
The challenge gives middle school students an opportunity to write about the impact of violence and allows teachers to engage students in classroom discussions. Students are encouraged to make personal commitments to help reduce and eliminate violence.
Both first-place winners, Aastha Ladani and Hans Rottman, are from local Catholic schools. They will be going to Washington, D.C., in July to represent Pittsburgh. And both of the third-place winners, Aubree Arelt and Brandon Skalniak, are Catholic school students.
Aastha is a seventh-grader at St. Bernadette School in Monroeville and the daughter of Mital and Amit Ladani. She transferred last year to St. Bernadette from Massachusetts.
Hans is an eighth-grade student at St. Bonaventure School in Glenshaw. He is an altar server and has participated in student council for several years, serving as vice president this year.
Aubree is a sixth-grader at Mary of Nazareth School in White Oak who participates in many extracurricular activities, including classes at the Dance Company for Performing Arts in North Versailles.
Brandon, a seventh-grader at St. Sylvester School in Brentwood, is a student council member, on the forensics team and played bass clarinet in the Diocesan All-Star Band.
Second-place winners were Sophia-Marie North of Pittsburgh Colfax School and Maxim Yaskolko of Pittsburgh Sterrett.
The Family Court Division of Allegheny County established the Pittsburgh Do the Write Thing Challenge in 2007-08, and Judge Dwayne Woodruff and his wife, Joy Maxberry Woodruff, serve as co-chairs.
Male and female students from each participating U.S. city are chosen annually as “national ambassadors” and honored at the Do the Write Thing National Recognition Week in Washington, where they meet with policymakers and discuss youth violence issues. A book of their writings is placed in the Library of Congress.
For the recent Pittsburgh celebration, top students from each of the 47 participating schools were recognized at a dinner. The Woodruffs reported that 2,274 students from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Woodland Hills School District and Penn Hills School District submitted entries this year. There were 168 honorable-mention students.
In addition to computers and other prizes, sponsors will provide Aastha and Hans, their parents and teachers with flights to the Washington celebration. Hotel accommodations, all meals and activities are included.