Helping a seventh-grader from Pawtucket
by Rick
Nov 25, 2012 | 596 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rick Norton
Rick Norton
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Even in today’s e-frenzied world of the Internet, blogs, iPads, iPods, iPhones, texting, tablets, skyping, e-media, email, e-readers, e-lectricity and precooked macaroni and cheese, I still get a few pleasant surprises.

One came in the mail last week.

And yes, the real mail. Folks these days call it Snail Mail, and rightfully so, when compared to the miracle of instant messaging gifted to society by today’s e-geniuses.

Call me a Neanderthal, if you will, but a little twinge of nostalgia runs up and down my spine when receiving a handwritten letter. Note, I said handwritten. It wasn’t even typed.

How many times lately have you and I done that? Even greeting cards — including Christmas — have gone the way of the e-market.

“That’s today’s world,” a young person told me the other day. “It’s who we are. It’s where we are headed. You better hop aboard the train because it’s picking up steam.”

I nodded in tired agreement.

“Sad, but true,” I concurred. “But you should have said e-steam. That’s where today’s society is headed, young e-Grasshopper.”

Judging from her frown, I’d say she missed the metaphor. I thought about clarifying with the mention of “Kung Fu,” perhaps even David Carradine, but that could have added further murk to an already muddied water. It was just a generational thing.

It doesn’t make her a young whipper-snapper, nor does it mean I’m a dinosaur. Although, I will admit here in the newsroom I have overheard whispers and distant grumblings in far corners about a creature known to some as “... Tyrannosaur Rick.”

Again, sad but true.

But let’s get back to that letter. It restored some hope. It also told me some teachers out there are exploring innovation in the classroom using a reverse twist. They are resurfacing yesterday’s courtesies to better define tomorrow’s values.

The envelope was addressed to the Cleveland Daily Banner with the subhead, “Attn: Editor.” It landed on my desk.

It was printed — using No. 2 lead pencil, I assume — by a young junior high school student from Pawtucket, R.I. Her name is “Braelyn F.”

A seventh-grader, Braelyn’s letter was accompanied by another — this one was typed — from her instructor, geography teacher Brian Gilmore. He explained the Goff Junior High School class project and asked our newspaper’s help.

You can find both correspondences published on this page in the “Letters to the Editor” section.

Up in Pawtucket, the students have been asked to pick a state of the Union and to complete a project — a written report, a poster board and an oral presentation. Braelyn picked Tennessee because she once lived here, but at too young an age to remember much about our way of life. Her teacher later told me all this ... and yes, in an email.

Here’s Braelyn’s letter. Its salutation reads, “Dear Editor & Citizens of Tennessee.” Its wording reminded me of a call to arms, but upon reading on I caught her drift.

“I am writing to you to say hi from the smallest state, Rhode Island. I am a seventh grade student at Goff Junior High School in Pawtucket, R.I. In my geography class, we are making a project that lasts a whole semester, and it is on one of the 50 states in the United States. I chose to do my project on Tennessee, which is my favorite state.”

Here’s her request, “Could you please publish this letter in your paper so your readers could help me with my project? My teacher said that firsthand information from citizens of our chosen state would be much more helpful than information we find ourselves.”

She adds, “If your readers could [send] me some information it would help me so much. Your readers could send the information right to me at school. Thank you for your help with my project.”

According to Mr. Gilmore’s accompanying letter, Pawtucket is the birthplace of the U.S. mill industry, and Goff Junior High is merely a five-minute walk from Slater Mill. Like most urban school districts, Goff faces challenges. Some 80 percent of the school’s students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program; yet, Goff is reported to be the only “... high performing junior high school in the district.”

That’s a tribute to teacher quality, but it also says a lot about student interest, administrator accountability and parental involvement. All play a role in developing young minds. It’s just like a village.

Frankly, little Braelyn’s letter put the “thanks” in my Thanksgiving. And her love for Tennessee has added some joy to my Christmas. I hope she has done the same for you.

Banner readers who would like to help Braelyn — via the U.S. Postal Service — by forwarding some information about our area, or your family’s legacy to Southeast Tennessee using pictures, news articles or any relevant mementoes, are asked to send them to: Braelyn F., Goff Junior High School, 974 Newport Avenue, Pawtucket RI 02861.

It’s a chance to serve as ambassador to Tennessee.

It’s a unique opportunity to share our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown experience with those around us, near and far.

It’s also about giving a hand up to a little girl who’s finding her future through education.

If that doesn’t say “Happy Thanksgiving” and “Merry Christmas,” then nothing does.

I hope you folks will help Braelyn.

As part of her village, we can make a difference.