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People often think that their thoughts, passions and ideas do not matter, that a single voice, out of millions, is insignificant. However, three students from Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA) became the voice to thousands of puppies who have been treated poorly solely for profit, bringing attention to an important cause, and learning about the power of using your voice.

WIVA sixth grade teacher April Ruddell was leading her English class in a lesson about “problem and solution essays”. Implementing research and the composition of essays, students identified a problem or issue they cared about, shared it with their classmates, and were then invited to respond to one another’s presentations, offering solutions though essay and letter writing.

“Throughout the assignment, the students worked together to learn about the issues, improve their writing, and present their final product with the class,” said April. “When students collaborate like this on a relevant topic, they tend to really enjoy the work.”

Three students wanted to take this assignment one step further and make their “call to action” come to life. So the girls collaborated and wrote about puppy mills, and the abuse and cruelty behind these secretive operations.

Puppy mills are known for their unethical, and inhumane treatment of puppies. These animals are bred and sold as any other product you see in stores, with little to no regard for the animals’ welfare. The conditions are cruel, and many die in this harsh environment, with those who buy from these facilities often unaware of the conditions.

The girls delivered a presentation on puppy mills to their classmates, sharing facts and statistics. “They shared why puppy mills are a problem and offered some possible solutions. They also asked for other solutions,” April said. In speaking to their classmates, more students wanted to take action beyond the class assignment to do something about this problem. April said, “I have a lot of animal lovers in my class!”

The girls decided that writing to their state representatives was a great place to start. They drafted a letter from the entire class and sent it to several lawmakers.

Within a few weeks, the girls heard back from U.S. Congressman Mike Gallagher:

“Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about animal abuse and puppy mills. Like all of you, I believe we must prevent animals from being treated in a cruel or abusive manner. We must make it a priority and our goal to ensure that no animal is being abused, starved, neglected, or abandoned. I am proud to represent a district with such hardworking and dedicated young Wisconsinites like all of you.”

“The students were thrilled when they received a reply, and it helped teach these young sixth grade students that they can make a difference at any age,” says April. “They took their passion and what we were learning in class to try to make change.”

These students learned that it is possible to make a change with just one voice, or in this case, three. WIVA’s sixth graders wanted to make a change by spreading awareness. With the help of their teacher, their idea was brought to life, and it inspired their classmates to act. Making a difference is about taking that first step – at any age – to create the change you wish to see.

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