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FMS students make a difference

Farragut Middle School students Jordan Newby, Alexa Cusick and Douglas Rogerson are determined to change the world.

Karen Rehder’s eighth-grade advanced language arts class particpated in C-Span Classroom StudentCam Documentary Comp-etition from early August through Friday, Dec. 21. It was announced in February that the class included six of the 15 winning teams.

Jordan, Alexa and Douglas presented their documentary, “Aid for Africa? America’s First Priority” to Farragut Rotary Club Wednesday, March 26.

Alexa said, “We chose the topic of AIDS in Africa and whether the United States was doing to much or too little and how it really did affect all of us.

“We got most of our information from interviews with very knowledgeable people with interesting and diverse opinions,” she added.

Among the group’s interviewees were former United States Sen. Bill Frist, representatives from the Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa organization and FRC’s own Fred Martin, with SafeBlood for Africa.

Douglas said, “We were fortunate enough to get to interview Dr. Bill Frist. He was giving a lecture on his encounters with malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. I asked [Frist] about AIDS as an epidemic and also as an economic roadblock for many African countries.

“One of the most significant things he talked about was how these people with these illnesses were reverting to terrorism just to raise enough money for their families to live and to survive for a few more years. He said, ‘Terrorism is stimulated by helplessness.’ This really shed light on our whole group. We had not thought about what relationship these two major issues had,” he said

“This really brought our project together and closed up the argument for giving money to Africa,” Douglas added.

The group wanted to make sure they had thoroughly researched their topic and had balanced information.

“We really had to think about what else this money could be used for. We decided the strongest opposing point would be to use the money to help with [America’s own] poverty, homelessness and educational barriers. We interviewed individuals about this and the response was greater than we expected. We truly had balanced political material to use in our documentary,” Douglas said.

Using their research and the balanced material they gathered, the team came to the conclusion that it is imperative that America send additional aid to Africa to help combat this epidemic.

Jordan said, “During the course of this project we learned that AIDS is an international problem that requires international help. Countries all over the world are putting billions of dollars into research, care and testing centers.

“We learned that H-I-V/AIDS is a problem that will affect each and every one of us, AIDS or not. The Africans need help. Whether it is offered by us or a terrorist nation, they will turn toward help.

“Since we have the funds and the ability to help, it is our duty to assist where there is need,” he added.

The team plans to put its money where its mouth is.

“We won $1,000 to split between the three of us and have decided, as a group, that each of us is going to donate a part of that money to an organization that is helping in Africa with AIDS,” Alexa said.

FRC was duly impressed by both the documentary and the students.

Rotarian Joan McIntee said, “I would just like to commend all three of you. Farragut can be justly proud of all three of you.”

Rehder has had to answer to some people as to why a language arts class is participating in this project.

“I had one parent ask me when I was going to start teaching English,” she said.

“This is an application of skills. They have to write their scripts, they have to do a storyboard and they do a treatment. All of that is the application of the written language arts skills — knowing the grammar and sentence structure and knowing how to organize their thoughts. And on top of that, all the wonderful critical thinking that is involved. It is all-encompassing,” she said.

The following winning documentaries will be shown on C-Span beginning at 6:50 a.m., on the following dates: Summer Awad and Courtney Such: “Too Poor to Get Sick” Monday, April 21. Alexa Cusick, Jordan Newby, Douglas Rogerson: “AID for Africa? America’s First Priority” Saturday, April 19. Ashley Davis and Caitlin Wood: “The Great Debate: What Should We do about Global Warm-ing?” Saturday, April 5. Bradley Carr, Tyler Stridde, Robert Wrinkle: “When Should the Troops Come Home? The Nation’s Quest-ion” Thursday, April 10. Hannah Chapman and Makena Lowrey: “Passport to the American Dream” Tuesday, April 15.

Receiving Honorable Mention were Kaity Patterson and Katie Wenger: “Weighing in on America’s Life Expectancy.”

C-Span interviews with each team will be shown during C-Span’s Washington Journal programming beginning at 9:30 a.m., following each documentary broadcast.


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