By Denise Dick
Third-grader Taniya Phillips would worry that no one would trust her any more.
Stephon Abron, a seventh-grader, says it would affect his plans for college and a career as a mechanical engineer, and fifth-grader Khaliq Gentles believes it would have a negative effect on his younger brother.
The three students were the winners of the essay contest, “Why I Never Want to Go to Jail.” Students in the Youngstown City Schools Afterschool Alliance and the Youth Police Academy wrote essays, explaining “Why I never want to go to jail” after a visit last month to the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center.
Taniya won first place and $100. Stephon’s second-place essay earned him $50, and Khaliq won third place and $25.
Delphine Baldwin-Casey, commander of the Youth Police Academy, said the Black Knights Association chose the winners from the eight students who submitted essays and also provided the prizes.
Essays had to focus on the theme, incorporate some of the information students learned from the speaker at the center and explain how the students would use the information to make better choices, Baldwin-Casey said.
Taniya, a student at Martin Luther King Elementary School, said she never wants to go to jail because if she did, she “wouldn’t be trusted anymore.”
She wouldn’t like the loss of privacy or the metal detectors, either.
“The toilets there are — ugh,” she said.
To be a good person, you have to be responsible, Taniya explained.
“It’s like me with cleaning my room,” she said. “I have to clean my room in order to get another pet. I have a fish.”
She’s hoping for a puppy.
Stephon, 13, a student at Rayen Early College Middle School, said the visit to JJC was scary, so he imagines that jail would be really scary.
“It would affect my scholarship and my choice of college,” he said.
Stephon plans to attend Ohio State University and be a mechanical engineer.
The center’s concrete beds and handcuffs also weren’t appealing.
Khaliq, 10, a student at Williamson Elementary, said staying in jail would mean losing the privilege of being with his parents and his family. It would also set a bad example for younger siblings. He has a younger brother, Luke, 6.
“Visiting there, I felt like I really was in there,” he said.
At JJC, someone follows you wherever you go and there’s a loss of freedom, Khaliq said.
The Youngstown Afterschool Alliance, open to third- through eighth-graders, includes about 265 students. The essay contest was for those in the program from Rayen Early College, Chaney High, Martin Luther King and Williamson elementary schools.
April Alexander, project director of the program for REC, Chaney and Williamson, said the essay contest fits into the programs’ aim of teaching students to make good choices.
Taniya says she’ll save the $100 she won with her essay.
“I love shopping, but I have to save it,” she said.