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Student writers outline some ongoing concerns

Texting while driving, school lunch options and lack of adequate recreational opportunities are among the topics on the minds of Escalon High School students.

In a class activity, one that stretches back more than two decades, teacher Ryan Young has his students voice opinions on what they feel are current issues in need of addressing, especially at the local level.

He said the assignment was first done by students in the 2001-2002 school year.

According to Young, the assignment is “based on the Progressive Era muckraking (investigative) journalists” who were intent on exposing a variety of issues facing society at the turn of the 20th century.

For today’s students, they can choose to address a local topic of concern to them or expand it to statewide, nationwide or worldwide concern. Letters are written by the students and then are sent to The Times. Over the next four weeks, running through the end of January, the newspaper will print a few of the student letters in each week’s issue under the Letters to the Editor heading.

This week, excerpts are featured from a few of the letters.

Student Aiden Hohenwarter focused on the issue of texting and driving, specifically among teenagers.

“Teens are too careless when they drive without distractions but when adding cellphones into the mix it creates even more distractions and careless drivers,” Hohenwarter wrote. “When drivers are focusing on phones whether it be texting, calling a friend or family member, or even just looking at the phone in general we create a huge problem for us and those around us.”

Hohenwarter went on to suggest enforcement of a larger, “more threatening” fine for the offense of texting and driving as a way to discourage it.

School lunches were the topic for student Cheyenne Ratkiewicz.

“The only item I’m okay eating is the spicy chicken sandwiches, and that’s only because the spice drowns out the “taste” of the chicken,” Ratkiewicz indicated. “If your kid doesn’t like the taste of the food, then they probably aren’t going to eat it and that’s a whole problem in itself. If your child doesn’t get any food in their system how are you going to expect them to obtain all the knowledge they need for school?”

Ratkiewicz said she was considering writing a letter to the school board hoping to bring about some changes so food served on campus would be “better food for my health.”

Recreational opportunities were addressed by student Cooper Fugett.

“Why doesn’t Escalon have more recreational spaces and programs for the children, teens and adult residents to participate in?” Fugett asked.

Noting that there are tennis courts, a track and a pool on the campus of Escalon High School, Fugett said “they are now locked” so the public does not have easy access to them.

“People of all ages in Escalon deserve freely available recreational activities and spaces,” Fugett argued in the letter. “Sharing these spaces can provide a sense of community and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

To that end, Fugett urged opening the facilities to the public to expand those recreational opportunities.

Young said the main goal of the assignment is to have students think outside the box, focus on an issue important to them, identify why it is a concern and then offer possible solutions.

Look for a selection of student letters in the Jan. 10, 17, 24 and Jan. 31 issues.