Published on March 24th, 2017 | by Gigi Grossman


Samo letter campaign to Betsy Devos on public education

Betsy DeVos’ recent stance on public schools has prompted Samo students to assemble a powerful letter writing campaign.

With DeVos not promising to continue funding the public school education system, Yi-Mei Templeman (‘18), a member of the TEDxSAMOHI club, came up with the idea of sending DeVos personal letters from individuals who feel strongly about the importance of public schools.

“I had heard people talking about Betsy Devos and her stance on public school,” Templeman said. “I’ve initiated the letter writing campaign because I think we all value public school very highly and there’s so many unique stories and ways that public school has influenced all of us.”

The members of TEDxSAMOHI are getting involved with this movement by serving as ambassadors—and they are hoping to get many more people involved before sending the letters off in a few feeks.

“I announced the idea to the club because it’s a group of people who are willing to spend their lunches making TED Talks and learning and sharing information,” Templeman said. “So now we’re just trying to get a lot of unique perspectives on the values of public school in letter form to send to Betsy DeVos, kind of bombarding her with as many perspectives as we can get so we can hopefully just mail a ton of them at once.”

For Templeman, Samo’s music program has been an important part of her life—giving her a topic to write about in her letter, as Devos’s administration threatens the funding and existence of both the music and art programs.

“I feel very strongly towards it because of the public school music program,” Templeman said. “Music is kind of what I want to go into and public school introduced me to it so I owe a lot to public schools and so I’m working on the letter now.”

Nathan Wenger (‘17), President of the TEDxSAMOHI club, decided to get involved after Templeman approached him with the idea of the letter writing campaign and because he disagrees with DeVos on ideological grounds.

“I disagree with her support of charter schools and the way that she seems to want to defund public schools,” Wenger said. “So that’s probably what I’ll be addressing most in my letter because I think the public education system is really important.”

In addition to writing letters, the campaign hopes to create a platform on social media to share these views with the public as well.

“Because letters are kind of disposable items and we’re afraid they might become disposable when we send them, we’re planning to maybe do a video project on the most meaningful quotes we can find when searching through those letters, and have people read those aloud and spreading that on social media if we can,” Templeman said.

Chon Lee, the teacher who hosts the club, was talking to Templeman a few weeks ago  when the idea for a social media project arose.

“We were discussing ways of showing the meaning of public school to each person at Samo and anywhere where we can get perspectives on public school,” Templeman said. “[Lee] kind of came up with the video project idea as well so we’re hoping to combine both of the ideas. So we might end up doing that as sort of a culmination of it towards the end of the year.”
The campaign strives to bring awareness to just how many people are affected by the public school system. Realizing that everyone has the power to make an impact is the first step. Those who are interested in participating are invited by the club to join them in room H121 on Wednesdays.

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