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For Grades 9-12 , week of June 14, 2021

1. Straight A’s Reward

To encourage Black athletes to excel in the classroom as well as sports, an anonymous donor in Georgia has made an incredible and unusual offer. For every semester an athlete gets straight A’s, the donor will pay for a semester of college tuition. The offer to football players at Centennial High School north of the city of Atlanta came after the donor saw a picture of scholar-athletes from the football program and all but one was White. “He said ‘That needs to change,’” Centennial athletics director Jeff Burch told CNN News. The donor then came up with the tuition offer to challenge students to be all they can be. “It blew my mind,” Burch said. “Many kids thought … they couldn't do it, but they did.” So far five student-athletes have earned straight A’s scholarships. “The scholarship changed my life and changed the way I view life totally,” said Evan Walker, who earned three semesters of free tuition. “It pushed me into a different mindset. Either I can be average or be above average.” Many people and organizations offer incentives to get students to “be all they can be.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts to encourage students this way. Pick one and write a personal or opinion column detailing why you think it is effective. Then offer a suggestion in your column for an incentive that would encourage students to seek greater success. Discuss with family, friends and classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. A Dangerous Gas

The coronavirus epidemic caused a huge drop in air pollution all over the world. But one kind of pollution has quickly bounced back — the gas carbon dioxide. In fact, carbon dioxide has increased to its highest levels in the atmosphere since modern record-keeping began more than 60 years ago. Carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning fossil fuels such as gasoline, oil and coal, is a major contributor to global warming, because it traps heat in the atmosphere. That makes the newest statistics particularly worrisome to scientists. “Fossil fuel burning is really at the heart of this,” one scientist told the Washington Post newspaper. “If we don’t tackle fossil fuel burning, the problem is not going to go away.” According to statistics compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached an average of nearly 419 parts per million in May, a jump from 417 parts per million just a year ago and a new record. Reducing the use of fossil fuels to combat global warming is a major goal of President Biden and his administration. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the President’s plans. Use what you read to create a list of bullet points indicating steps that the nation, businesses or individuals could take to start reducing fossil fuel use. Share and discuss with classmates or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. An Inspiring Friendship

A Michigan man who appeared before a judge on drug charges 16 years ago made a return visit to court recently. It was a much happier experience for Edward Martell — and Judge Bruce Morrow played a big part in it. When Martell last appeared before Judge Morrow, the jurist gave him probation instead of jail time, and some incredible words of encouragement. “He said ‘Mr. Martell, you don’t have to be out here selling drugs,” Martell told CNN News. “You have greatness within you. I challenge you to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” Martell didn’t do that, but he did something almost as incredible. He went back to school, first at community college, then at college, then at law school. He won academic honors and became friends with Judge Morrow. They stayed in touch, and when Martell passed the Michigan bar exam to become a lawyer, he wanted Morrow to be part of the story. So he went back to Judge Morrow’s Circuit Court courtroom. In front of family and friends, he was sworn into the State Bar of Michigan as a full-fledged lawyer. “Morrow cracked that door open for me and pointed me in the right direction [and] he never left me,” Martell said. “I felt like I was his son, and he was proud of me. It was everything I dreamed of.” Judge Bruce Morrow became a mentor for Edward Martell and helped him turn his life around and become a lawyer. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another person who became a mentor and helped someone. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing the importance of mentoring in helping people turn their lives around or succeed.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Royal Baby Name

Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan made news around the world when they announced they were stepping away from duties of the Royal Family of Great Britain. Now they have made news by naming their new baby girl in a way that reinforces their connection to the Royal Family of the European nation. The couple has announced that the name of their daughter will be Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor. The baby is named after Queen Elizabeth II, Harry’s grandmother, who was called Lilibet during her childhood, and Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997. The last name of Mountbatten-Windsor is a combination of the last names of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip at the time they were married. Choosing names for children is one of the most personal things people do. Some choose names that honor family members, while others choose unusual or symbolic names. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about names people have chosen for their children. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend discussing some of these names and why they were chosen. Then pick names you would choose for a boy or a girl (or both) and explain your choices. Finish by asking family members how you got your name.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Peacock Crackdown

Peacocks are big, beautiful birds that are famous for spreading their blue and green tail feathers to attract female mates. Peacocks and the female peahens are loved in zoos and nature preserves, but are not so popular when they go wild. In the state of California, they have gotten so wild that Los Angeles County is about to crack down on them. Many residents love the birds, but others are fed up with their aggressiveness, messiness and their ear-splitting screams, which sound like someone being assaulted. County officials have unanimously voted to draft an ordinance that will make it a violation to intentionally feed wild “peafowl,” as the males and females are known when spoken of together. “People should not be feeding these peacocks, pure and simple,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger told the Washington Post newspaper. Many people love wildlife, but sometimes wildlife become a problem. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife problem individuals or a community are dealing with. Use what you read to write an editorial, outlining ways the problem could be handled.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.