Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida awarded cash prizes to nine Volusia students for winning the organization’s poster contest.

The nonprofit organization started its Student Crime Stoppers program as a way of promoting the Crime Stoppers tip line to students. Crime Stoppers’ mission is to offer anonymity and financial rewards to individuals who provide law enforcement with information that helps lead to arrests.

The poster contest encouraged students to submit original artwork containing the campaign’s anti-violence slogan: “See it, Say it, Stop it.” The top three winning artists in elementary, middle and high school received cash prizes, and the grand-prize winning posters are displayed in classrooms and on Votran buses throughout the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Volusia County.

The student-focused initiative began in response to the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. Crime Stoppers’ belief is that the tragedy, along with many other school shootings, could have been prevented if someone had reported suspicious individuals with intent to harm ahead of time. The organization hopes that the poster contest will encourage students to report any information they encounter regarding potential violence in their schools or communities to prevent future incidents.

Crime Stoppers partnered with the State Attorney’s Office, the four school districts and the Sheriff’s Office in West Volusia to promote the student-centered competition, as well as within schools themselves.

Entries were judged based on originality, creativity, aesthetic quality and adherence to the campaign’s themes. Third-place winners in each school (elementary, middle and high school) won $100, second-place winners received $150, and first-place winners got $200.

The grand-prize winner of the elementary-school section was Kaitlyn Bench, a fourth-grader at Volusia Pines Elementary School in Lake Helen. Kennedy Wilson, an eighth-grader at Creekside Middle School in Port Orange, took the top spot for the middle-school section. And for the high-school section, Mikayla Jefts, a 10th grader at University High School in Orange City, won first place.

Other competition winners included Destini Solano, Yeriel Trujillo, Sofia Leschitz, Mattie Law, Jessmean Baghdadi and Arianna Hayton.

The three overall winners will also receive an additional $500, and their posters will be printed and distributed within schools and the district at large.


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