BRISTOL – Every year, members of West Bristol K-8 School’s Howler Newspaper Club research issues in the news to prepare for a town hall-style meeting with Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu in June.
Since the beginning of January, a group of students in grades three through six have been coming in early to school, three or four mornings a week, to attend the Howler Newspaper Club, named for the school’s wolf mascot.
Meetings consist of “lively, round robin discussions about current events and perfecting research skills which focused on finding credible research information online,” explained Judy Michaud, West Bristol library assistant and newspaper club editor.
Students worked in groups to select topics, create a persuasive letter addressed to an elected official, and design a Google slideshow to introduce their subject. It can be challenging to introduce complicated topics to students that vary so much in age, Michaud said.
“Young people generally view complex issues such as immigration, child labor, water pollution, animal extinction and gender equality, through a different lens than adults,” she said. “Kids seem to look at things much more pragmatically. They contemplate – Is it right? Is it wrong? Are people being treated fairly?”
“The answers to some of life’s most complicated and heated issues, are all very simple to them. It’s a refreshing take on the world from the perspective of an unjaded young person, especially in a time where adults can be much more divisive and polarized,” she added.
However, Michaud noted that as the students got further immersed in their topics, it was evident some of their innocent viewpoints were being altered by “a not so perfect world vision.”
After weeks of research and writing, the students got to hold their town meeting with the mayor.
“Being able to present their topic to Mayor Zoppo-Sassu in person made them feel that their voices were being validated by an adult of importance,” Michaud said.
Students Grace Mazzone, Emersyn Mazzei, Natalie Reyes, and Madison Morrissey opened the meeting “with an impassioned plea for all kids around the world to be allowed to enjoy their childhood and to be able to attend school,” she said.
The students’ presentation show that more than 152 million children are forced into labor around the world, and are at risk of having mental, physical, and social issues, Michaud said. “This is an extremely difficult topic for kids to ‘unpack.’”
Even so, the students managed to sort through many somber news stories to focus on the case of 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vazquez, who recently died in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention center.
“His death from the flu may have been prevented, if he had been given proper medical care, sooner,” the students wrote.
Zoppo-Sassu reminded the students about the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty that reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
She told the students that “when the Irish, Italians and Polish immigrants arrived in the United States from their homeland, they weren’t 100% well received by Americans. Fortunately, many Americans who had open minds and open hearts welcomed them into our country. Sometimes people fear what they don’t know.”
“Many of the group members who presented agreed that as a nation of immigrants, we could be more kind to people trying to seek asylum,” Michaud said.
Club members were also required to do service work that would help them to better understand some of the problems that face people today, she explained. As part of their service work, they participated in two separate “No One Eats Alone” Days at West Bristol. These events are intended to combat social isolation in the cafeteria.
After viewing videos relating to hunger, homelessness, inadequate medical care and child labor, students worked as a team to collect donations for the annual Red Nose Day in May, she said.
Red Nose Day is an international event to bring awareness and collect funds for children living in poverty. The students sold red noses sold for $1 and collected $120 for the cause. They also raised $367 to support Bristol’s Necessities Cupboard Food Pantry.
The West Bristol Howler Newspaper Club members are:
Gianna Fabrizio, Tiffany Thompson, Vanessa Lukaszczyk.
Avery Browning, Emerson Mazzei, Natalie Reyes, Abigail Corbin, Kyla Browning, Gianna Zaldivar.
Isabella Rossak, Seraphina Muscara, Madison Morrissey, Alex O., and Amelia Nanowski.
Grace Mazzone, Abril Gonzalez, Lissette Castillo.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or email@example.com.