Pilot program seeks to give new voices a platform for persuasion
by Melanie Jongsma
SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (April 4, 2022) – When Unity Christian Academy’s (UCA) Curriculum Design Coach approached The Lansing Journal with an idea for a final project for her English 9 class, the Journal was interested. A six-page proposal described a Student Editorial Contest similar in style to a program run by The New York Times. The UCA version of the contest would be smaller in scale, but it would allow 26 freshmen to write about something they care about, craft a persuasive argument, cite research to support their argument, and use logic to persuade a wider audience to make a proposed change.
The UCA English teacher proposing the editorial contest is Charis Bootsma, wife of Lansing Journal Managing Editor Josh Bootsma, who will be directly involved in judging the UCA entries. But Mrs. Bootsma assured her students that she would not be influencing his decisions.
Introducing the contest
UCA students were informed of the contest during their English 9 class on Monday, April 4. Mrs. Bootsma had invited The Lansing Journal to share:
- The history, readership, and purpose of The Lansing Journal
- The guidelines of the Freshman Editorial Contest
- The potential impact of editorial writing
Josh Bootsma had prepared a handout explaining that submitted editorials must be 500–700 words, use at least two reliable sources, explain a local impact, and meet an April 20 deadline. Members of The Lansing Journal’s writing team will read and score the submissions and announce winners on Friday, April 22.
Possible contest outcomes
As the culmination of weeks of learning about critical thinking, identifying evidence, and making claims, the Freshman Editorial Contest will provide students an opportunity to share their thoughts with a larger audience. The Lansing Journal will publish the winning editorials during the week following the contest, meaning Lansing Journal readers will also have opportunity to engage with new ideas from different people.
In addition, Managing Editor Josh Bootsma hopes that students will experience the power and responsibility of ideas, arguments, and words. “Anyone can have an opinion,” he told the class on Monday, “but backing up that opinion with well-researched facts, and presenting it with well-chosen words — that is important work that can make change in our world.”
The Lansing Journal is considering the 2022 Freshman Editorial Contest a pilot program. Based on learnings from the UCA class, the Journal would like to gauge interest from other area high schools this fall or next spring.