Leesville students contact legislature, sharing what they really care about

After writing to the EPA regarding the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, Regan Harsa, a current APES student, received an authentic letter in return. Harsa appreciated the letter because it showed that a real person read her own letter. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Kreis)After writing to the EPA regarding the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, Regan Harsa, a current APES student, received an authentic letter in return. Harsa appreciated the letter because it showed that a real person read her own letter. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Kreis)

While the majority of high school students can not vote in elections, a few Leesville teachers have proposed an opportunity for students to engage in local, state and federal government. Dr. Chip Stone, AP Environmental Science (APES) teacher, and Ms. Angela Scioli, AP Government and Civics teacher, require their students to write to NC and federal legislature, addressing problems regarding the environment, new legislation and more.

At the beginning of the semester, Scioli and Stone assign their students partners from the other class. The APES students complete a contact guide which addresses officials at the local, state and federal levels. The students may choose their topic, whether it be directly environmental or not– Stone just wants his students to care about something.

From here, the APES students share their draft letters with their AP Gov partners. The AP Gov student, who should be familiar with the structure of the legislature, edits the letter and returns it to his/her assigned partner. The APES students is responsible for turning in the letter to Stone and sending it off.

Similarly, Scioli’s Civics students, who are all seniors (some of voting age), write three letters per semester: one local, one state, one federal. The letters cumulate to equal one test grade, which usually aids a student’s grade.

Scioli’s students first conduct research to form a brief. Next, the students take their brief and turn it into letter format, adding the formalities of a letter and some personal touches. Scioli asks the students to address an envelope and provide a stamp before she sends the final product to the selected officials.

While for some the letter assignment is only a grade, others take pride in what they write to a chosen official. More often than not, officials from all levels make a point to reply to the individual letters in order to keep their constituents or consumers happy.

“I wrote Gary Pendleton, who is an elected North Carolinian official, a two page letter about HB2, and he hand wrote back a two sentence response that essentially said ‘thanks for the letter but you’re wrong.’ He took time out of his day to do that,” said Maggie Pollard, senior who had Stone as a teacher last year.

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