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From the Deputy Publisher: Strong Opinions


Published April 5, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.

From left: Aidan Page, Riley Cannucci and Aaron Brock - COURTESY OF SARAH CHENEY
  • Courtesy Of Sarah Cheney
  • From left: Aidan Page, Riley Cannucci and Aaron Brock

Proctor High School students Aidan Page, Riley Cannucci and Aaron Brock have all been featured in the Rutland Herald for their athletic endeavors, but until recently, none of the teens had ever written a letter to the editor.

That changed in February, when they got an assignment for a class called "Writing for the Workforce." Their teacher, Sarah Cheney, directed each of them to read a local news story and compose a letter to the editor. All three chose to read and respond to Seven Days.

Brock's letter — about an article featuring the 251 Club — appeared in the February 22 issue. Cannucci and Page picked a different topic, one they're passionate about: sports. You'll find their missives in this week's Feedback, along with letters from a few other classmates.

This week's five student letters reference Seven Days stories from early February. Cannucci, a ninth grader, responded to "'Bigger Than Basketball': Black High School Athletes Speak Out About Racism in Sports."

As a soccer player, he's heard fans "yelling racial slurs at a team that had African American players," he wrote. "It makes me want to quit playing the sport I love."

Discriminating against players and using foul language "should get you banned from all sports events for the rest of the year," Cannucci wrote.

Responding to "After Alburgh Brawl, School District Bans Fans From Basketball Games," Page offered more pointed criticism of the adults who got in a fight.

A senior baseball and hoops player, he wrote that he was "disappointed" in the actions of the adults involved. "These events clearly show that many parents and fans need to catch up on the point of school-sanctioned athletics," he scolded.

Participating in team sports teaches students about hard work, sportsmanship and respect, he explained: "These games at the middle school level are not about the spectators. The lessons learned are more important than the outcome of the games."

Wise words, right?

The final versions of these letters benefited from a bit of editorial guidance. As a parent of teenagers and the editor of Kids VT, Seven Days' parenting publication, I was excited to help these first-time letter writers share their perspectives; I wrote my first letter to the editor in high school, too! I talked with Cheney and offered some feedback to help them revise their submissions.

On occasion at Seven Days, we do the same for adults. We want to help letter writers make their points as clearly and effectively as possible, even when they're critical of our journalism. Ideally, publishing good-faith arguments like these helps us all refine our thinking and see things from a different perspective.

In a video meeting, Page admitted that the exercise of putting his thoughts into words was a challenge. "I struggled with including enough detail and not repeating myself," he said.

Cannucci turned in a couple different drafts. The hardest thing for him? "Trying to put it all in 250 words."

A common complaint!

Other assignments the students tackled in Cheney's class included drafting formal emails, résumés and cover letters, and filling out applications for rental housing. Cheney has heard other teachers refer to the course as "adulting class."

Why include letters to the editor in that mix? Because, Cheney said, students need to learn how to communicate their ideas beyond just their circle of friends. "You never know if one of these is going to persuade someone," she said. "It might actually influence something down the road."

Thanks for writing, guys. We hope this isn't the last time we hear from you!

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