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Prince George€s Judge Honors Youth

James Wright - WI Staff Writer | 3/17/2010, 3:57 p.m.

Associate Circuit Court Judge Herman C. Dawson Courtesy Photo
One of Prince George€s County€s most respected judges honored at-risk students in the juvenile justice system who penned essays on African American icons and who have excelled in school at a chic venue in the county.

Prince George€s County Associate Circuit Court Judge Herman C. Dawson hosted The Rising S.T.A.R.S. Youth Scholarship Foundation and Judge Herman C. Dawson Essay Awards Dinner, Wed., March 10 at the Woodmore Country Club in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Dawson, a well-known advocate on behalf of Black youth, said that these students in particular must be encouraged to be positive and forward thinking.

€My goal is to stimulate the minds of students who have had some trouble with the law and show them they must do well in school, graduate high school and go on to college,€ he said.

€We must get them back on track while they are still young so that they are able to function as a valuable part of the community.€

The group of students selected to attend the dinner were required to participate in an essay contest. In January, students focused on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They were also required to submit an essay during Black History Month. The students are monitored by Dawson, 55, to assess their educational progress and the jurist actively mentors the young men. He doles out encouragement, and, if needed, tough love.

Students are required to submit daily progress reports from teachers and signed letters from parents stating the child has studied a minimum of two hours each night.

Among the 50 guests who attended the dinner, a number of County notables showed up to lend their support, including County Executive Jack Johnson, Prince George€s County Circuit Court Chief Judge William Missouri, Board of Education President Verjeana Jacobs, Glenarden City Manager Beatrice Tignor, Mickey Burnim, president of Bowie State University in Bowie, Md., Larry Lucas, a well-known pharmaceutical industry representative and Thomas Graham, president of Pepco Holdings Inc.

Graham, a close friend of Dawson€s who presented the awards for outstanding progress reports, told students that they shared a lot in common. Graham said that he was one step away from a life that included drugs, alcohol and trouble with the law.

€I am just like you,€ he said.

€I was a struggling inner city kid, but I had important mentors in life. You have to have a value system that respects family and friends but you must also have integrity and be accountable for your actions.€

Marcus Young and Cornel Epps received awards for outstanding progress reports.

Burnim introduced the winner and the runners-up for the King essay contest. Before presenting the honors, he imparted a few words of wisdom to the young men.
€We want you to be winners,€ the Bowie State University president said.

€People who are winners are those who make good decisions. Everyday, you make hundreds of choices, choose wisely.€

Anthony Davis received a rousing hand of applause and the award for his King essay. The 16-year-old attends Surrattsville High School in Clinton, Md. Others recognized in this category included Joshua Brown, Quentin Thomas Jr., John Burns III and Young.

Missouri presented Emmanuel Bell, 16, a student who attends Suitland High School in Forestville, Md., with an award for his exceptional Black History Month essay.

Other students recognized in this category included Lawrence Benjamin, Saivon Bridgeman and Joshua Robinson.

Bell received a computer from Dell Inc., a check and a plaque. Missouri said that all of those who placed in the contest would be treated to lunch with the 32 circuit judges in his jurisdiction.

Bridgeman was honored for most improved grade point average with a certificate, a cash prize and two tickets to the Washington Wizards-Charlotte Bobcats game.

Malik Diallo, 16, who attends Forestville Military Academy in Forestville, Md., received a certificate, a cash prize and pictures of the Wizards€ stars.

The event was not about being in posh surroundings or being in the presence of some of Prince George€s County€s most respected leaders, Dawson said.

€This event is not about anyone but the kids.€

€We are here for the kids,€ the judge said. Wi