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Lesson on Courage Comes with National Writing Honor for Ruppel Academy Students

Ruppel Academy for Advanced Studies 8th graders (from left) Alex Walker and Kyle Bush were two of the five national winners announced in the Junior Scholastic Mary Beth Tinker writing contest.

Ruppel Academy for Advanced Studies 8th graders Alex Walker and Kyle Bush (from left) were two of the five national winners announced in the Junior Scholastic Mary Beth Tinker writing contest.

Two students at Ruppel Academy for Advanced Studies used a national writing contest to stand up for a cause and add another impressive achievement to this Jefferson Parish Public School.

Ruppel eighth graders Kyle Bush and Alex Walker were two of just five students across the U.S. to win the Junior Scholastic Mary Beth Tinker writing contest. Students were asked what issue they would support as strongly as Tinker’s famed opposition to the Vietnam War.

“I was kind of surprised to hear that I won,” said Bush. “And to hear that we had two people winning from here out of five was crazy.”

Tinker protested the war as teenager. The stance she took led all the way to the Supreme Court, eventually earning the right of free speech for students across the nation. The issue Bush defended in his award-winning essay was the right for boys to wear earrings to school. Walker took on an issue very personal to his family, standing firmly behind equal rights for the LGBT community.

“My parents are gay,” said Walker. He later added, “My grandpa always told me before he passed away, that if you believe in something stand up for it. Talk about it. Tell people about it. Do what you need to do to make what you want to happen, happen.”

Ruppel Academy teacher Christine Berry said she appreciated how the contest required more from students than just defending a cause. Entrants had to develop concrete steps they would take to actually effect change.

“I just like getting my opinion out there and making it known,” said Bush. “And I like getting out there and making changes for the better.”

Both students credit their teachers and the commitment to writing at Ruppel Academy with their success in this contest. Writing is a skill they know will be needed in almost any career they choose — and accordingly, the school emphasizes the skill throughout its classes. The students said they’ve even had writing assignments in P.E.

“Their achievements exemplify the efforts and dedication both our students and our teachers demonstrate in regard to implementing the Common Core State Writing Standards,” said Ruppel Academy Principal Debra Cooper. “Alex and Kyle are well-rounded students who consistently take advantage of the learning opportunities afforded them at our school.”

As much as these students gain academically from their school’s focus on writing, lessons like this contest also offer a great deal of insight into the importance of courage.

“Tinker didn’t bring an end to the Vietnam War,” said Walker. “But it’s important to put my ideas out there.”