Geneva School District 304 News Article

Students Appeal to Lawmakers with Letter-Writing Campaign

By taking pen to paper one afternoon during their lunch break, students at Geneva Community High School learned yet one more way citizens can appeal to lawmakers’ attentions.

In its continued support of allowing student voices to be heard, GHS participated in a letter-writing campaign on April 20, a “Day of Action” during which communities called on lawmakers to take real steps to end school violence. The month prior, GHS administrators had supported a 17-minute student-led walkout to honor the victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The optional letter-writing campaign was set up in the cafeteria during students’ lunch periods, and students were told they could write on school safety or any other topics that concerned them. Students were provided with a list and map of state representatives and senators, as well as writing materials. General guidelines were provided on how to write a formal letter to lawmakers, which followed best practices according to Democracy Program Director Shawn Healy, PhD, from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.  

Letter-writing guidelines included:

“Dear Senator _________________” or “Dear Representative ______________.”, make an appeal for this congressperson to vote in a certain way or to support a certain issue, introduce yourself, giving your name and year in school, tell them you are a student at Geneva High School, and you may also mention that we are an Illinois Democracy School, make an anchor statement about why your issue is important and should be acted upon by our legislature, you can follow this with specific reasons or examples/stories if you would like, etc.

Principal Tom Rogers emphasized in a letter home to parents that the activity empowered students to express their own views. “Students are not being told how or what to think about a particular issue. The letters have not been pre-written, and it is an optional activity,” he said.

GHS is a designated Democracy School within the McCormick Foundation’s Democracy School Program, whose mission is to provide high-quality civic learning experiences to all young people to develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to facilitate informed participation in public life.

“We just want students to use their voice. No matter what that voice is,” said GHS Library Director Elizabeth Grubaugh, who co-organizes Democracy School activities with Social Studies Teacher Sue Nagle. The pair have been instrumental in the school’s designation process for Illinois Democracy Schools Initiative; GHS has held this distinction for the last 10 years. 

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