Com­mu­nity leaders have high hopes for more than 40 sixth-​​graders in the Boston Public Schools who wrote award-​​winning essays on courage as part of a unique lan­guage arts pro­gram in res­i­dence at North­eastern University.

Speaking at the 20th annual awards lun­cheon for the Max War­burg Courage Cur­riculum in the Curry Stu­dent Center last Friday, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told the stu­dents, “With the right atti­tude, you can do any­thing you want to do. Stay focused, and make the right choices, and you will have a bright future.”

The inno­v­a­tive pro­gram honors the life and legacy of Max War­burg, a coura­geous 11-​​year-​​old who lost his battle with leukemia in 1991. Over the last 20 years, the pro­gram has reached more than 100,000 stu­dents, from Boston to Thai­land, who read award-​​winning books that empha­size the impor­tance of courage in chil­dren and young adults. The stu­dents then write essays that examine courage in their own lives and in their com­mu­ni­ties by spot­lighting impor­tant issues such as vio­lence, home­less­ness and drug addiction.

Some 2,500 stu­dents from 32 schools sub­mitted essays this year. The win­ners are fea­tured in the 20th edi­tion of “The Courage of Boston’s Chil­dren,” a bound book that is dis­trib­uted to local libraries.

This is a chance for the com­mu­nity to cel­e­brate all of the great things that Boston school chil­dren are doing,” said Eliz­a­beth Evans, the program’s exec­u­tive director. “The courage these stu­dents have showed, which they illus­trated so well in their essays, makes for a really proud moment for the community.”

For Mass­a­chu­setts Sec­re­tary of Edu­ca­tion Paul Reville, all of the stu­dents who sub­mitted essays are heroes. “We’re cel­e­brating a lot of heroic acts of courage today,” he said. “Think about all of those moments in which you chose to stand up [for what is right].”

He praised the teachers who helped their star pupils craft such heart­felt sto­ries. “There’s a teacher behind every stu­dent who’s being hon­ored,” Reville said. “The power of the public edu­ca­tion system begins and ends with our teachers.”

Max’s younger brother, Fred, was only 9 years old when his big brother passed away. He echoed Reville, noting, “The teachers showed stu­dents the value of hard work and the courage it takes to succeed.”

Mayor Menino, he said, has sup­ported the pro­gram from its begin­nings. “He has a spe­cial place in his heart for chil­dren and teachers,” he said.

Max’s mother, Stephanie, awarded the stu­dents medals for their coura­geous achievements.