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Roberts student a winner in essay contest

By Maria-Jose Subiria

It is not every day that a 12-year-old gets to ride along with the sheriff for a day, but sixth-grader, Raji Allen, Jr., got the opportunity on Tuesday, after being named the sixth-grade winner in a countywide essay contest conducted by the Clayton County Sheriff's Office.

Allen, a student at M.D. Roberts Middle School in Jonesboro, was presented with a plaque by Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough on Tuesday morning.

Allen received the plaque for being the sixth-grade winner of the essay contest, which asked students to describe what they would do to fight crime if they were sheriff, according to Sgt. Sonja Sanchez, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office.

Sanchez said Jailene Soto, a student at Forest Park Middle School, is the seventh-grade winner, and is scheduled to ride along with Kimbrough on April 6.

The eighth-grade winner will be announced at a later date, she said.

During a day of activities with the sheriff, Allen was scheduled to accompany Kimbrough to a meeting at the Clayton County Sheriff's Office; on a tour of the Clayton County Jail; to a meeting in Atlanta; and to a Leadership Clayton session at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, according to an itinerary provided by the sheriff's office.

When asked why he entered the contest, Allen said it was "because I wanted to give the sheriff's [office] an idea of what they can do to combat crime."

Allen added that he would like to pursue a career in law enforcement, or law.

"That's interesting that you talk about being a lawyer, because I am a lawyer, too," Kimbrough told Allen.

According to Kimbrough, he received a law degree from the Emory University School of Law in 2000.

Allen read his essay to his middle school peers Tuesday morning.

In the essay, he said he would provide law enforcement in public schools, create a neighborhood watch program and station deputies in various bars and restaurants throughout the county.

"Your essay was awesome, and an inspiration to me," Kimbrough told Allen. "Most of the things you talked about, I am doing today."

According to Sanchez, Kimbrough chose Allen's essay because the student articulated his ideas thoroughly.

Raji Allen, Sr., the student's father, said he heard the news of his son's win from the school's assistant principal last week.

"It's outstanding. It is almost hard to express the excitement," Raji Allen, Sr., said. "We can tell that he is overjoyed."

An interest in law enforcement, as a career, runs in the family, the elder Allen said.

Raji Allen, Sr., explained that he used to work as a fugitive commander for the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, and is currently a contract investigator for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Sanchez said this is the first year the sheriff's office has conducted an essay contest for Clayton County middle school students.

Kimbrough said the essay contest was targeted toward middle school students, because they are at a particular stage in their lives when they are able to make important decisions.

"This is an excellent way for those who are leaning in a positive direction to lean more into that positive direction," he said.

Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley expressed his support for the essay contest on Tuesday.

"You can see he [Raji Allen, Jr.] is already a leader on campus," Heatley said. "I hope we [Clayton County Public Schools and the sheriff's office] can get a winner from every school and just keep it going and keep it growing."