Holmes Student Named Finalist for ‘Local Letters for Global Change’ Contest

Allison K., eighth grader at Holmes Middle School, with Randy Peterson, core teacher

When Allison K. was called to Randy Peterson’s classroom in December, she thought maybe she had done something wrong. Upon entering the room, the eighth grader at Holmes Middle School was instructed by Peterson to sit next to him.

“She was really, really nervous and I just told her ‘read this,’” said Peterson, a core teacher for eighth grade.

Rather than something of concern, in front of Allison was an email from the Pulitzer Center in Washington, D.C., congratulating her on being named a finalist for the 2022 “Local Letters for Global Change” contest.

“[I was just] kind of in disbelief,” Allison said. “That they looked at my letter … that someone looked at it and thought it was good.”

The contest asks students to identify issues about which they feel passionate, “explore underreported stories that offer global and historical context for those issues, and act on their knowledge by advocating for solutions,” according to the center’s website.

For Allison, that topic concerned women’s reproductive rights.

“Though women have won their right to vote, to own property, to fair wages, and to have sole custody over their children, they still don’t have freedom to own their bodies,” Allison wrote in her letter to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “Right now, only 66 of 195 countries have legalized abortion. Women are not getting the healthcare that they need and deserve.”

Her letter cited the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, as well as a Pulitzer Center-supported article titled “Abortion Is Considered Basic Health Care in Mexico City. Its Clinics Are Open to U.S. Women,” which Allison noted was required for the contest.

Entering the contest was the brainchild of Peterson; Jodi Greenspan, literacy information coach; and Elizabeth Geller, core teacher. Peterson mentioned they always try to think of “new and fun” ways to have the kids interact, especially with current events, and Greenspan found this contest via the Pulitzer Center‘s website.

“We thought ‘this is so awesome, let’s go with it,’” Peterson added.

Topics across the participating students ranged from the water crisis to immigrants on the border to climate change. Of the about 190 letters submitted in the end, between 30 and 40 were sent to the Pulitzer Center. Allison’s entry was the only from Holmes to become a finalist.

“I didn’t actually think I would, I guess, [get that] recognition,” Allison said. “And even once I did, I downplayed it a little. I didn’t realize it was kind of a big thing until they told me I was going to be interviewed.”

While news of her award was shared between Holmes staff and the district, Peterson said they may honor Allison toward the end of the year, though nothing has been specifically mentioned.

As for Allison, she is hopeful that the recognition can help her branch out further and get her into “good colleges and good jobs,” as she would like to be a lawyer in the future.

“I feel like there are a lot of topics like [women’s reproductive rights] that are considered taboo … and I really hope that changes,” Allison added. “I really hope that I can help that change and hope that when I’m older I become recognizable for helping change those things. I really want to help people in any way that I can.”