Pilot Project

Writing Competition/Symposium on School Safety
Prince George’s County Public Schools

Screen Shot 2019-08-07 at 10.12.12 AM.png

May 17th, 2019 was supposed to be a field day for the students at International High School at Langley Park. Instead, they were placed under a five hour lockdown due to threats of gang violence on campus. As a result, two students were recommended for expulsion, and several other students were placed on a watchlist.

Keishia Thorpe, an English teacher at IHS and 2018-19 LifeChanger of the Year Grand Prize Winner, refused to let this happen at her school again. She’s doing her part to create a safer learning environment in the best way she knows how: empowering English-language learners to develop their writing, speaking, and leadership skills, while also providing a pathway to higher education. The National Coalition for Safe Schools is proud to support her pilot project: a writing competition and symposium on school safety.

Competition/Symposium Goal

To give students a voice in school safety planning and in establishing safety protocols, in an effort to minimize the impact that high-crisis situations have on them. Having students involved in safety management may help to alleviate the anxiety and other symptoms they experience during high-crisis situations. This project is a step towards involving students in open conversations about community and school safety and solicit their input to effectively communicate and enhance students’ responsiveness to safety drills in case of a serious incident. 


To empower student leadership and voice through research, and to encourage students to think globally and act locally.

Guiding Questions

Keishia’s project aims to solve school violence at the local level. Participants in the competition will be guided by the following questions:

1) How is violence impacting students in Prince George’s County?

2) How are schools currently preparing for violent threats?

3) What safety plans/protocols need to be developed in order to prevent acts of violence?


The competition is open to any college-bound junior or senior in Prince George’s County Public Schools. In order to enter, students must write a 3-5 page research paper that addresses the guiding questions.

Ten finalists will be chosen from the submissions received. From those ten finalists, five winners will be selected to present their plan at a District-wide Symposium to a panel consisting of School Board members, principals, and community law enforcement to get feedback. The five winners will also receive college scholarships, with the Grand Prize being $1,000.