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Memorial to drive-by victims is helping others

BOOST: Winners of the 2011 Charlene and Letisha Education Awards with mums Marcia Shakespeare (third from left) and Bev Thomas (fourth)

A SCHEME set up as a living memorial to two teenage girls who were shot dead in Birmingham almost nine years ago, continues to give a financial boost to students who have so far benefited from a total of £80,000 to help them with living costs and studying.

The Letisha and Charlene Education Awards were launched in memory of Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare, who were the innocent victims of a drive-by shooting - a crime which shocked the nation on January 2, 2003.

Since then more than 100 students who have applied for the annual awards, have been helped. The project is run by the families of the girls, including their mums Marcia Shakespeare and Bev Thomas. It is backed by the Birmingham Mail Charity Trust and administered through the Birming-ham and Black Country Community Foundation.

This year awards were handed out totalling £2,400 to students, who included a trainee doctor and a beauty therapist. For the first time, an award was given to a 56-year-old grandmother, who is aiming to become an advice worker.

The winners were: Shameela Walker, 26, from Handsworth; Atonye Harris-Debo, 16, from Newtown; Zetna Robinson, 56, from Hockley; Amari Thompson, 21, from Quinton; Anita Chiverton, 42, from Harborne; Leah Deacon, 25, from Shard End; and Sinead Graham, 20, from Yardley Wood.

Letisha’s mum Marcia said: “I think the scheme highlights how something positive can come from the tragic time when our daughters were murdered. It’s all about giving young people an opportunity where they may not have had that chance due to a lack of resources.”

Andy Richards, the scheme’s chairman, added: “The awards emerged from a dreadful crime in the city, a crime that in my opinion was probably the worst since the pub bombings.

“The awards go to responsible young people who maybe come from difficult backgrounds but deserve a break. Many of the winners have gone on to become positive role models in the community, while also becoming living memorials to the girls.”

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