Savanah Quinones’ essay for the Do The Write Thing Challenge, My True Story, was published in a book, and Quinones was recognized in front her family, teachers and peers for her talented writing. Photo By: Kendall Bierer.
West Palm Beach, FL – May 29, 2013 – Out of 24,111 students, Horses Healing Hearts’ very own Savanah Quinones stole the hearts of the judges during the 2013 Do The Write Thing Challenge (DTRT). This essay challenge provides middle school students in Palm Beach County with an opportunity to examine the impact of violence on their lives and communicate in writing what they can personally do to stop violence. Quinones’ story, My True Story, spoke volumes concerning the amount of violence she has seen in her life, and her words are now bound and published in the DTRT Challenge book.
There are 36,620 students currently enrolled in the 36 Palm Beach County district public middle schools. Quinones’ story required her to answer the following three questions:
How has youth violence affected my life?
What are the causes of youth violence?
What can I do to reduce youth violence?
My True Story told the truth of Quinones’ life, the words that she has never been able to speak out loud. At 14 years old, Quinones has been active within Horses Healing Hearts for three years, since its inception, and the equine experiential learning has helped her face new challenges every day. A few months ago, Rhonda Fritzshall, HHH’s Child Educator, suggested Savanah put some of her feelings and her story down on paper – as a cathartic experience. This is how it all began.
“It was definitely a process to put my experiences on paper. It took me about two or three months. I had already been writing the story, and the Do the Write Thing Challenge was a perfect fit,” Quinones said. “I loved seeing everyone’s expression as they read the story. It felt amazing to be published, and to help stop violence.”
The DTRT Challenge is the largest program in the nation, and helps middle school students embrace the concept of empathy. Research has discovered that there are over 130 gangs in West Palm Beach alone, and that during the middle school age range there is a better chance of deterring them from that path. The National Campaign to Stop Violence established the program, and it has continued to make an impact across the nation since its establishment. Palm Beach County is only in its sixth year of participation, but over 30 schools participated for the 2013 Challenge. Multiple panels of volunteer judges read and reviewed each essay, narrowing down the field until the top six were chosen. Although Quinones’ essay was not in the top six, she was recognized as being one of the top finalists for L.C. Swain Middle School, a distinguished honor.
The Kravis Center was filled with over 800 attendees for the prestigious Do The Write Thing Challenge Luncheon. Many of the students had never attended the Kravis Center before that day, and the Breakers catered a beautiful luncheon. The finalists were introduced to several celebrities, and they were presented with a backpack filled with prizes, as well as the bound book with the finalists’ published work. One parent and a teacher accompanied each student. The day was dedicated to the prevention of violence, and the hard work and talent, which was prevalent in the heartwarming essays.
“I thought Savanah’s essay was so powerful and incredible,” Chairman of the Palm Beach County DTWT Challenge, Bill Bone, Esq explained. “I was astounded that she wasn’t chosen as one of the national finalists, but I know she has a gift to reach people and move them. She is very talented, and I hope she can make a difference in the world with her words and wisdom.”
Quinones admitted that she has already begun working on another story, and she has every intention to pursue writing. “Once I knew that it was getting published in a book, I knew I had gone so far. Once I found out that I could actually write, and that people liked my stories, I decided it is something I want to continue. Horses Healing Hearts has helped me with all of the challenges that horseback riding come with. My story explains what we have been through; HHH has been such a relief. This amazing program, and Liz, really lifts the weight off of my shoulders.”
Liz Olszewski, Founder of HHH, shares, “I could not be more proud of Savanah. She is an incredible writer. As I was reading her story, the details of which I didn’t even know despite all that we had shared over the years, came to light. I realized what it takes to put yourself out there like that. In true form, Savanah ‘stepped up to the plate’, just like she does in riding, and she held nothing back. This is one thing I’ve learned about children of alcoholics. They have been through a lot, but in spite of, and probably because of these experiences, they are resilient beyond belief. I have every confidence she will go on to write – not only to help herself, but to help others from what she has been through. She will be a successful professional in whatever endeavor she chooses.”
To read Savanah’s essay, please click here.
Horses Healing Hearts is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to bettering the lives of children of alcoholics and substance abuse through equine experiential learning. To learn more about Horses Healing Hearts or how you can help with donations of money or time, visit www.HHHUSA.org or e-mail Liz Olszewski at email@example.com or call (561) 713-6133.