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For Grades 9-12 , week of Nov. 22, 2021

1. Infrastructure at Last

After much delay and debate, President Biden has signed into law a $1-trillion infrastructure package designed to upgrade the nation’s highways, bridges, airports and electricity lines. The signing came three months after the measure first passed the U.S. Senate, and weeks after the U.S. House set it aside to dicker over details in a $2-trillion companion plan to improve social services. The House passed the infrastructure bill three days before Biden signed it. The measure had support of both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House, a rarity in today’s partisan political climate. The President hailed that bipartisan support. “Let’s remember what we’ve got done for the American people when we do come together,” Biden said, celebrating the bill on the South Lawn of the White House. In addition to repairing roads and bridges, the measure will provide $65-billion to expand high-speed Internet access for rural and hard-to-reach areas, $66-billion to upgrade Amtrak and other railroad services and $47-billion to prevent wildfires and prepare coastal regions for flooding made worse by climate change. States and the federal government are now making plans to determine what projects are most important for funding from the infrastructure bill signed by President Biden. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about proposals for spending this money in your state or other states. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing different proposals and offering advice on how to choose among them.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Teen Entrepreneur

It’s often hard to get a start in the world of business. But more and more young people are finding a way around that problem by starting their own businesses as entrepreneurs. The word “entrepreneur” comes from the French word “entreprendre’” which means “to undertake.” And that’s what entrepreneurs do: They come up with an idea for a product or service and then use the Internet, social media and personal connections to get it up and running. One entrepreneur now getting a lot of buzz is a 15-year-old from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who started a T-shirt company at age 12 and in three years has turned it into a luxury streetwear line of clothing that has caught the attention of rappers, athletes and a professional sports team, the Philadelphia 76ers. Trey Brown’s Spergo line has been supported with a $25,000 Black Excellence Entrepreneurial grant from Sean “Diddy” Combs and a partnership with the 76ers’ through the team’s “Buy Black Program,” the Washington Post newspaper reported. It has opened stores in Philadelphia and Washington, DC and has plans to open more in other cities. In the meantime, Brown pushes his products through Instagram (“the best platform for young entrepreneurs”), personal appearances and even trips to local Black barbershops. Every person who has thought of opening a business could become an entrepreneur. With a partner use the newspaper and Internet to find and closely read stories about people who have become successful entrepreneurs. Then brainstorm an idea for a business you would like to start. Write a business plan for how you would get started and design a marketing strategy for how you would get the word out. Present your plans to classmates, friends or family.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

3. Don’t Call Late

In high pressure businesses, employees have long complained about bosses who call or text them at home after the office has closed. This practice got even worse when people started working at home during the coronavirus and the boundaries between home and work blurred even further. In the European nation of Portugal, government leaders apparently have been listening, UPI News reports. The Portuguese parliament has passed new labor laws that impose penalties on employers for contacting their staff after work hours. The laws were designed to provide workers with more privacy and less interference and improve work-life balance. While this was good news for employees, the parliament stopped short of a more emphatic “hands off” message for employers. A law that gave workers the “right to disconnect” and shut off work devices after hours failed to pass. Achieving work-life balance has become more and more important for workers since they were forced to work at home by the coronavirus epidemic. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about this issue and what people are doing about it. Use what you read to write an advice column offering people tips on how to best achieve balance between work and home life.

Common Core State Standards: Citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. Food for Families

The coronavirus epidemic has had a huge impact on families who struggle to put food on the table for children and the elderly. It also has had a huge impact on the restaurant industry, which has lost millions of dollars as a result of customers staying away or staying at home. In the state of New Jersey an innovative program is using state money to feed hungry families and also help restaurants that are struggling. The Sustain and Serve program provides funds to non-profit organizations to buy food from small restaurants for delivery to families or the elderly in their homes. So far $34-million has been awarded to 29 organizations for partnerships with restaurants, with another $10-million on the way, the New York Times newspaper reported. The program, which is on track to serve 3.5 million meals by the end of January, is considered a “win-win-win” for nonprofit organizations, residents who need food and small businesses that may be struggling. The Sustain and Serve program is an example of a government program designed to help people who are in need or struggling. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another program designed to help struggling people. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining the program’s goals, what it has achieved and what challenges it still faces.

Common Core State Standards: Citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

5. Harvard History-Maker

Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest university in the United States. The Massachusetts university is also home to the nation’s oldest student newspaper, the 148-year-old Harvard Crimson. This fall, the Crimson did something it had never done before in all those years: It elected the first Hispanic and first Latina woman to lead the 125-member student staff. Raquel Coronell Uribe of Miami, Florida last week was elected president, the highest position at the newspaper that once counted U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy on its staff. Coronell Uribe said she hopes her selection leads to more Hispanic presidents in the future. "I’m hoping that opening that door will allow it to stay open,” she told National Public Radio. “That’s what makes me the most excited.” On college and university campuses, students achieve groundbreaking accomplishments in a variety of ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about college students achieving groundbreaking success. Use what you read to write an essay or commentary about the importance of students “Breaking Through in College.”

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

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