OGDEN -- Being bullied in school is most often a negative experience, but Riley Pierce, of Ogden, and Lynna Landrouche, of Layton, turned that into a positive by writing about their pain for an essay contest.
Their thoughtful writings about bullying and youth violence earned the two teenagers a trip to Washington, D.C. Riley and Lynna entered the Do The Write Thing essay contest, held at their schools earlier this year, and were chosen as the top two winners for the state.
The program challenges students to reduce violence and its impact on their lives while encouraging others around them to do the same.
After being selected for the state finals, the two teenagers were invited to the governor's mansion for lunch. They also received a $500 savings bond. Later, Riley and Lynna were chosen as the state winners and won a trip to the nation's capital.
"It was really cool," said Riley, 14, a student at Highland Junior High School. "Even when we were on the plane, they announced who we were and a lot of the passengers wanted to meet us. Back in Washington we got to meet senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee."
The two toured the Capitol and the Supreme Court and had a fancy dinner at the Ronald Reagan building.
"Our essays were also published in the Library of Congress," said Lynna, 14, a student at North Layton Junior High School. "It was a really amazing experience."
One thing the two said they learned was that everyone has problems and they are not alone. They shared their essays and experiences with other teenagers who were representing their states.
"I wrote about my experience with bullying," said Riley. "When I was in the fourth grade, people started calling me names and saying mean things to me and about me."
Riley said he felt anger, sadness and even revengeful feelings at times. He even lashed out by becoming a bully to others.
"I changed from being bullied to being the bully myself," he said. "But I didn't like that. It felt wrong. I knew it was wrong, so I stopped and decided I was going to help others by just being their friend."
Riley said he is still bullied at times, but he now chooses to ignore it and walk away. He also said he feels sorry for the people who are bullying him because they are probably being mistreated themselves.
"It had to happen to them first," he said. "Either it happens at home or someone at school is being mean to them. I feel sorry for them."
Lynna wrote about violence in general and also touched on a brief experience she had with bullying.
"I was able to get through it, especially with the help of my mom," she said. "But I think everyone has experienced some form of violence in their lives, whether it be mild or severe. I just want to encourage people to help others and be there for each other.
"We need to help each other stop violence and spread the word of this program."