It is rare that students have the opportunity to complete a homework assignment and change the world at the same time. Students in Gail Pells’ Advanced Placement Language and Composition classes were given the opportunity to do so by partaking in Write for Rights.
Write for Rights is Amnesty International’s global letter writing campaign. The focus of this campaign is to bring attention to individual cases of human rights abuses around the world. First, students read a packet containing the heart-wrenching stories of individuals whose rights had been validated in different ways. After reading the packet, students picked a victim whose story resonated, and wrote the victim a letter of support.
“It was great for us to write to the victims especially,” says student Dia Gawronski, “Sometimes all people need to hear is that they have someone supporting them.”
Writing letters to the victims was an important part of the assignment, but it did not end there. Students were also required to write two letters to whichever government official could assist the person in distress. For instance, for a case in the United States, students could write to President Obama, but for a case in Indonesia, students addressed their letters to Indonesian authorities.
Pells, who discovered the campaign through an e-mail she received, considers the campaign a fantastic initiative. However, she fully acknowledges that, in this day and age, writing letters to foreign authorities is a scary prospect.
“Being intimidated because you are scared of repercussions is awful,” explains Pells. If students were given the option to refrain from sending his or her letter if they felt as though it could endanger them.
However, most students felt empowered by the assignment and chose to send their letters.
“It felt good knowing that we could make a difference for someone and advocate for them,” says student Jordan Theroux.
Ultimately, taking part in the letter campaign was a tremendous learning opportunity for students.
“The mantra in AP Lang is that everything’s an argument,” says Pells , “so this was the perfect example of authentic application.”