JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Jackson Hole Middle School 7th graders wrapped up their “Guts Factor” projects and nine finalists, as voted on by their peers, have emerged as having the best “Combat the Silence” treatises. Students from the classes of Mrs. Jennifer Marlar and Ms. Kelly Kaiser raised awareness on a variety of today’s big issues, both globally and close to home, and then did something about it.
Jennifer Marlar’s Top 4:
Like most of the finalists, Josie Berry writes from personal experience on a topic that hits close to home. Discrimination on the basis of sexual identity, orientation or identification is something many communities struggle with. Jackson is fairly progressive when compared to many other cities in the Equality State, but Wyoming as a whole has further to go (Matthew Shepard incident) to make itself a safe place for all.
Berry’s “Love, not Hate” message is simple, but the work behind her stance is well researched and compelling.
Much has been made about Jackson’s housing crisis. So much, in fact, it has become difficult to broach the subject in a new and poignant way. Mia Fishman gets right to the heart of the matter with her “reliving a nightmare” opening. As a 9-year-old, she watched her mom pack the family’s things. Again. Five times they moved during her childhood.
Fishman grew up with Jackson’s housing crunch as a given, but she has never considered it the norm. In her paper, she crunches numbers and collects quotes from a variety of sources trying to find a reason or rhyme to a problem that tears at the fabric of this community.
Jackson Fouras goes for the shock value to begin his treatment on the dangers of cyber-bullying. His opening “scene” describes a typical school-age crush until the subject—real life Megan Meier, 13, is found hanging from a rope in her bedroom. All over a boy that never really existed.
Wow, talk about an in-your-face opening. Fouras dives deep into an age-old problem with a new twist, and something even us adults can sympathize with. We can be mean on our laptops…and we never see the wreckage it causes.
Anita Lewis’ animal euthanasia piece really tugs at the heartstrings. She takes the reader straight to the shelter. We see the cute puppies and kittens. We’re trying to decide which one to take home. Meanwhile, the people who work at the pound are deciding which ones they will have to kill later that day.
It’s a gut-wrenching look at the stark realities of pet overpopulation and what happens when the family no longer wants Fido, or didn’t make the effort to get Fefe fixed. The emotional exhaustion takes its toll on shelter workers, too, Lewis reminds.
Kelly Kaiser’s Top 5:
Jacie Chatham knows she has it good. Her global awareness is up front and center when she opens her treatment on her own soccer life. She has more gear than a kid her age would ever hope to need while others on the opposite side of the world playing the same game are lucky to have the ball.
At a young age, Chatham gets it. She knows she is privileged compared to many. And she wants to help level the playing field. Bravo!
How brave of Carey Ritter to go to such a dark place. As a typical Jackson teen, she can’t imagine what it might be liked to be owned, sold, and trafficked as a sex slave in a seedy industry. But she forces herself to go there and takes the reader along.
“Some people may argue that this issue is only happening in specific parts of the world,” Ritter writes. But “we realized that we have a horrific problem here in our own backyard.”
Addie Robertson tackles a huge issue (as big and vast as the oceans themselves) and brings the littered beach right to the reader’s doorstep. And just in case you need convincing that polluting the earth’s water is a problem, Robertson writes, “a river in Ohio caught on fire again in 1969. Yes you heard that right, a river caught on fire.”
It’s more than just an eyesore, Robertson adds, we’re killing our planet. And she has a solution. Robertson and a classmate met with the mayor of Jackson about a plastic bag ban for town.
Phoebe Alva Rosa is good at sports. Really good. When she plays soccer and hockey with the girls, she’s the MVP, the star player. When she plays with the boys, they won’t even pass to her.
Gender inequality in sports is real. Alva Rosa examines how much universities and colleges spend on men’s athletics compared to women’s. She looks at the top athletes in the world and what they earn. All in a desire to be treated the same as the boys on the playing field or on the ice.
Teenage years are often filled with peer pressure and anxiety. Fitting in is tough when “everyone around you is staring. Everyone around you is judging,” writes Stella Vickland. Her examination of anxiety goes far beyond the stress-filled world of teens and uncovers what exactly is happening with the human condition when anxiety sets in.
And don’t tell Vickland, “You’ll get over it.” She’s done the research. Teens don’t get over feelings of inadequacy and loss of self-confidence. It gets worse with time. She faced anxiety head-on with a great awareness project that took guts.