Two Burnet Middle School eighth-graders have been named national ambassadors for the Do the Write Thing Challenge.
This year marks the first time that the two national ambassadors from the Austin-Travis County are from the same school.
Rudolph (R.C.) Hardin and Vivian Pan were selected as ambassadors for the program, which is an initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence.
The students took on bullying and animal cruelty in their essays, with Vivian recounting her own experiences with bullies.
"It was last year in seventh grade when I first came to America. It took me quite a long time to get used to the environment," she wrote.
She said classmates mocked her accent, Chinese culture and food, and bystanders made little effort to help her.
"I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, until they called me out, 'Hey Chinese girl! Do you guys really eat dogs? Because that's nasty, and I wouldn't even bring my dogs around you…'"
Vivian said the behavior continued for weeks, and she credited her family's support for her growing stronger from the situation.
"Bullying is a much bigger subject than what it seems," she wrote, and included statistics on suicides. "I wish I could help the victims out there and let them know they are strong and they have all the rights to fight for themselves. Your life is WORTH IT."
R.C. wrote about animal cruelty and the types of people who abuse their pets, whether through ignorance, neglect or cruelty.
He offered tips for other students on how to help stop animal cruelty.
"If you see someone hurting an animal, or know of an animal who looks sick, injured or does not have adequate food, water or shelter, you can do something about it," he wrote. "Never try to help an animal yourself. Instead, tell an adult you trust."
He advised others to keep cats indoors and dogs on a leash.
"Be kind to animals and others will follow," he concluded. "Let your family, friends, classmates and adults know that hurting animals is not cool."
Vivian's and R.C.'s compositions were selected from among 3,820 compositions submitted by students in the Austin, Eanes, Del Valle, Manor and Pflugerville school districts.
They will have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., to present their views to national leaders, including some members of the president’s cabinet and Congress.
Vivian's and R.C.'s works have been published and placed in the Library of Congress.