DMS students earn Honors Finalist distinction for essay on violence

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, June 8, 2022




Two Dillon Middle School students were named finalists of the “Do The Write Thing” essay contest sponsored through the Montana Board of Crime Control. Aliyah Riener and Lilla Guiberson advanced to a special ceremony in Helena as top finishers in the initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence.

According to long-time program advisor Becky Telling, this year was the first time that DMS had produced two finalists the same year in the contest. She estimates DMS has participated in Do the Write Thing for seven to ten years, and in that time three DMS students were selected as the program winner and National Ambassador. Malcolm and Alfred Peterson won their contests and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. Oden Carlton won the contest last year but did not make the D.C. trip due to a COVID cancellation.

According to Telling, the students answer four questions regarding violence in their essays. She added that students can write the work in any style they would like. She has seen poems, or in story form weaved together to answer the essay questions, or essay-type answers.

Telling and DMS teacher Katie Miller administer the program at DMS through their classes in which they required all seventh and eighth grades to write an essay. It was up to each student whether or not they wanted to submit the work to the contest.

A previous grant allowed the school to buy books for each grade - sixth, seventh, and eighth and the lessons are used to set the table for essay writing.

“They are graphic novels so they are pretty easy to read,” said Telling. “It starts the discussion and then the brainstorming on what to write about and those kind of things.

“It is kind of intense. Writing is therapy and there are some pretty powerful essays. I think it makes them aware that they are not the only ones that are dealing with issues and stress. At class, we do a lot of brainstorming on ways we can be more supportive of each other and what we can do in the community. There are a lot of good discussions.”

Both Guiberson and Riener received finalist plaques and gift bags for their accomplishments.