NEWARK — It’s not everyday that a student gets a letter from the President of the United States.
Tia Brown, now a fifth grader in Rebecca Borgus’ class at Kelley, received a letter from Barack Obama in June after she wrote a letter to him in May asking him to “stop air pollution.”
The letter was written as part of a persuasive letter writing exercise when Tia was a fourth grader last year in Amber Phelps and Kathy Zappia’s class.
Students were instructed to write letters in hopes of persuading someone about something they care very much about. Students were also instructed to consider possible recipient’s reactions and try to counter those viewpoints in advance in the letter.
In her letter, Tia enumerated the negatives of air pollution. Here are some of her reasons.
• “It is really bad for older people and can get into their lungs and people could die.’’
• “I think you should make a law to stop air pollution because it is bad for all people.
• Smoke from factories is letting bad air in the world and into your lungs. The air pollution is bad for the environment.
Anticipating how Obama might react to her suggestions, she countered:
• “You might say it is too much paperwork, but kids and I will make posters.”
• “You might say that people don’t care about air pollution. I will show videos that teach the affects on older people’s lungs.”
• “You might say you have too much other things to worry about. I can ask the mayor and governor to help with this cause.”
In the topical form letter sent back to Tia in June, Obama thanked her for writing.
“Our environment and wildlife are among our most precious treasures and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I am committed to safeguarding our country’s air, water and land by reducing pollution for today’s pressing environmental challenges,’’ he wrote.
Obama said his administration had set aside over “1,000 miles of rivers and millions of acres or wilderness and said “we are working with our international partners to make the earth a cleaner, safer place for your generation.’’
He also suggested how students can play a role in keeping the planet safe through recycling and turning off lights and appliances when not in use. He directed her to a website at
“Hearing from engaged young people like you gives me great hope for the future,” is how the letter ended and then, of course, with Obama’s signature. Brown also received an autographed picture of the President, a picture of his dog and other materials.
She recalled jumping up and down when her parents told her she’d received a letter from the White House. She also shared the news with one of her best friends, Amelia.
“She was really proud of me,’’ Tia recalled, adding that other students “freaked out” when they learned she’d received a letter from the President.
Both Phelps and Zappia were thrilled to learn their former student had received a response from Obama as a result of the persuasive letter writing exercise.
“This is what it is all about,’’ Zappia said with a smile as Phelps nodded in agreement.
At the opening assembly of the school year in September, Principal Teresa Prinzi had Tia read the letter she’d received from the President.
Tia said the whole experience has been pretty exciting.