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'Do the Write Thing' 2020
'Do the Write Thing' 2020
Posted on 05/20/2020
Noah Graham (center) reacts to a group who came to his house.By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

North Buncombe Middle School student Noah Graham stepped out of his Weaverville home to a surprise on Friday, as a small group of people stood outside (physically distant, of course) to announce that Noah is one of two winners of the “Do the Write Thing” writing contest.

“It felt really good,” he said. “I didn’t expect that I would win. It still hasn’t sunk in. I was just so happy that someone read my poem and liked it that much.”

For each year’s Do the Write Thing contest, middle-schoolers write poems and essays that examine the causes and effects of youth violence and explore solutions. Asheville City Schools (ACS) and Buncombe County Schools (BCS) each whittle down hundreds of entries to six finalists and one overall winner for each district. In previous years, an awards banquet honored all the finalists and their families, but the COVID-19 crisis forced organizers to come up with another plan. BCS and ACS officials, along with U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray, announced the two winners from the ACS boardroom. Afterwards, they went to surprise Noah and ACS winner Caroline Burton, of Asheville Middle School.

Noah’s submission, “Salvo,” viscerally illustrates the effects of mass violence on his generation.

Asheville City Schools Do the Write Thing Winner Caroline Burton. “It’s dark, but I didn’t want to sugarcoat anything,” Noah said. “I wanted people to read it and feel the reality of it. I want it to reflect what’s actually happening. This generation is going to change the world, and this generation needs to be aware in order to make change.”

Noah credits his parents, North Buncombe High School (NBHS) history teacher Ben Graham and NBHS School Counselor Jessica Graham, with helping him learn to reflect on what matters to him and speak his mind. He also thanked North Buncombe Middle School English Language Arts teacher Ms. Aubrey Cooper, along with his elementary and intermediate school teachers, for helping him build strong reading and writing skills.

“He has just grown up in an environment with excellent teachers who have always encouraged him to think deeply, to wrestle with things through reading and writing,” Mr. Graham said. “At home, we have conversations about important things and hard things. We feel so proud of him, because he’s brave. He’s not afraid to say things that are on his mind and back them up. And he’s not afraid to be vulnerable. He wants to make the world better.”

Noah and Caroline received an iPad as part of their top prizes. Along with a teacher and a parent, they have been provided with an all-expense-paid trip to the national Do the Write Thing conference in Washington, D.C. There they will have the opportunity to interact with dignitaries and have their writings published in the Library of Congress. Plans for the national contest are contingent on CDC guidelines for physical distancing and reopening.

The other 10 nominees were:
BCS
-- Aryania Feaster, A.C. Reynolds Middle
-- Angelina Luu, A.C. Reynolds Middle
-- Olivia Hoots A.C. Reynolds Middle
-- Charley Griffin, Clyde A. Erwin Middle
-- Trey Smith, Valley Springs Middle

ACS
-- Amelia Sherman, Montford North Star Academy
-- Ava Baggett, Montford North Star Academy
-- Breaundra Edgerton, Asheville Middle
-- Isaac Fertel, Montford North Star Academy
-- Maya Letzing, Asheville Middle

The contest is sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District Of North Carolina; Asheville Police Department; Asheville Housing Authority; Buncombe County Sheriff's Office; and Western North Carolina Rescue Mission.

    Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin, shanon.martin@bcsemail.org, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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