The power of the pen

Students take English exercise to ‘writing with a purpose’

Albani Chavez had lunch with Superintendent Bill Fetterhoff after sending him a letter to persuade him to change the school start time (Courtesy Photo)

North Godwin Elementary fourth grader Aime Fonseca wrote to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, asking her to boost recycling efforts across the state by offering free recycling. The governor responded with an encouraging letter, which Aime received in early January.

“When I got my letter I was so excited and I was so surprised,” said Aime, who found her passion for protecting the environment when she learned about climate change last year in third grade. “When we read it, it was so specific.”

Aime Fonseca holds the letter she received from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this January (Courtesy Photo)

A writing assignment yielded some meaningful outcomes for Aime and other fourth graders in Kelly Compher’s class. Compher challenged her students to showcase their persuasive writing skills by writing a letter to someone about something they felt strongly about.

“Originally this was just going to be letter writing for the purpose of an assignment, but one of our kids asked, ‘Will we be actually sending these?’” said Compher. “That changed this from just a writing assignment to writing for a purpose.”

Students sent letters to a variety of people, including parents and teachers.

“I decided to write to Mr. Fetterhoff to see if the elementary schoolers can get more sleep — to see if he can change the (school start) timing to 9:30,” said Albani Chavez, who was inspired to write the letter after noticing that she learns best when she’s well-rested.

While Superintendent Bill Fetterhoff could not grant the request because it would conflict with before and after school programming, Albani said, she was excited that he came to her classroom and had lunch with her and her teachers to discuss the idea.

After getting the response from Gov. Whitmer, Aime Fonseca says she will write more persuasive letters to encourage political leaders to take care of the environment, particularly lakes and streams, and to encourage them to make recycling widely available.

“Aime was so incredibly proud and the kids in the class were so excited for her,” Compher said. “In the future, I will definitely continue mailing these letters.”

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Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting. Read Bridie's full bio or email Bridie.

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