1. Trailblazing Women
Vice President Kamala Harris made history last month when she became the first woman ever to deliver the commencement address at graduation ceremonies at the United States Naval Academy. She was not the only woman making history at the event, however. Midshipman First Class Sydney Barber of Lake Forest, Illinois, graduated as the first African American woman in the academy’s history to serve as brigade commander. As brigade commander, Barber has been leader of the military academy’s 4,500 midshipmen for the spring semester and responsible for much of the brigade’s daily activities. She also has led professional training of other midshipmen. Upon graduation she will be commissioned as a Marine Corps ground officer. Vice President Harris congratulated the 21-year-old Barber in a private Zoom call before graduation, telling her “You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.” Both Kamala Harris and Sydney Barber are trailblazers for women and women of color. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other women of color who are trailblazers and pioneers in their fields. Use what you read to plan a TV special focusing on such trailblazers. Pick three or four women to focus on and explain your choices in a “pitch” letter to a TV network. Share and discuss with family, friends and classmates.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
2. Cancel College Debts!
One of the great fears of college students is graduating with a mountain of debt to pay off. At historically Black Wilberforce University in Ohio, recent graduates got some unexpected good news at this year’s commencement. The university announced it was canceling all debt that students owe to the university for the classes of 2020 and 2021. That adds up to more than $375,000 in canceled tuition, fines and fees owed directly to the university by students or their parents. The offer does not cover federal loans, bank loans or any other kind of personal loans taken by students, but it will make a huge difference for some students. They greeted the news at commencement with cheers and dancing in the aisles. Wilberforce University is the nation’s oldest private, historically black University owned and operated by African Americans. Running up college debt is a concern for many students and parents. In the newspaper and online, find and closely read stories about students and families dealing with this problem. Use what you read to write a consumer column offering advice on ways students could limit or reduce the college debt they may incur.
Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
3. Chadwick Boseman College
Long before he won fame as the Black Panther, actor Chadwick Boseman was an activist student at Howard University seeking to preserve the school’s College of Fine Arts as an independent source of inspiration and creativity for students. Now, less than a year after Boseman died at the age of 43 from colon cancer, the university is renaming the college after the acclaimed actor. The College will now be known as the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts and will indeed remain independent from the College of Arts & Sciences, as Boseman had wished as an undergraduate. The university made that decision in 2018, the year Boseman received an honorary doctorate degree and was commencement speaker. “I don’t know what your future is,” Boseman told students that day. “But if you’re willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes . . . you will not regret it.” Universities and other institutions often choose to honor notable individuals who have achieved success and inspired others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an individual you think deserves to be honored. Write a proposal outlining why a university or institution should honor this person and what kind of honor should be given. If you like, you may choose a specific university or institution to give the honor (explain why).
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.
4. Deadly Changes
Global warming and climate change are affecting habitats, wildlife and people in more and more ways all over the world. A new study indicates that they are also affecting people’s health. The worldwide study found that more than a third of heat-related deaths in many parts of the world can now be associated with climate change. Heat-related deaths in warm seasons have increased by an average of 37 percent overall due to climate change, with some areas increasing by as much as 76 percent, the New York Times reported. “Taken together, our findings demonstrate that a substantial proportion of total and heat-related deaths during our study period can be attributed to human-induced climate change,” the authors wrote. Increased health risks are only one danger now posed by global warming and climate change, scientists say. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other risks people face due to global warming. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining what nations or communities can do individually or together to address or reduce those risks.
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. Shoe Rescue
Dress codes can often cause conflicts with students. In the state of Louisiana last month, a dress code almost cost a high school senior a chance to attend his graduation. Daverius Peters adhered to most of the dress code for graduation at Hahnville High School, wearing a white dress shirt and tie, dark dress pants and the mandatory purple cap and gown. The problem was his choice of shoes. While they were black (with white soles), they were leather sneakers, a violation of the code that said there could be “no athletic shoes” at graduation, the Washington Post newspaper reported. When Peters was blocked from entering, however, an unexpected hero came to his rescue. John Butler, a paraeducator at the school, saw what was going on and gave Peters the shoes off his own feet. They were a couple sizes too big, but they met the code. Peters was able to shuffle across the stage and get his diploma in front of his family. Butler, whose daughter was graduating, sat shoeless through the ceremony. After the event Peters found Butler to return his loafers. His mom was hugely grateful. “He gave the shoes off his own feet to my child,” she said. “That says a lot about what type of man he is.” The school is reviewing the graduation shoe requirement. People often do random acts of kindness that make a difference in the lives of others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone doing such an act of kindness. Use what you read to create a public service ad for the newspaper or Internet, calling attention to this random act of kindness, explaining its impact and urging others to perform random acts of kindness on their own. Then discuss with family, friends and classmates some random acts of kindness you could perform. Remember, they do not have to be big acts, just kind ones.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.