Mayor sends letter to assist ‘Braelyn’
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Dec 05, 2012 | 1034 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CLEVELAND MAYOR TOM ROWLAND, right, reviews a copy of a letter he sent to a Rhode Island seventh-grader from Pawtucket who is appealing for information about her favorite state, Tennessee, for a geography class project. Rowland hand-delivered a copy of his letter to Rick Norton, associate editor of the Cleveland Daily Banner. The mayor and the newspaper have encouraged community support for the student’s project. Banner photo, STEPHEN CRASS
CLEVELAND MAYOR TOM ROWLAND, right, reviews a copy of a letter he sent to a Rhode Island seventh-grader from Pawtucket who is appealing for information about her favorite state, Tennessee, for a geography class project. Rowland hand-delivered a copy of his letter to Rick Norton, associate editor of the Cleveland Daily Banner. The mayor and the newspaper have encouraged community support for the student’s project. Banner photo, STEPHEN CRASS
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A Rhode Island seventh-grader’s appeal to Tennesseans to learn more about her former home state as part of a geography class project has made its way to City Hall and to the desk of Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland.

In response to a handwritten “Letter to the Editor” by “Braelyn F.” that was mailed to the Cleveland Daily Banner and published in the Nov. 25 edition, Rowland has responded with his own personally prepared letter that has been mailed to the Pawtucket youngster. The Cleveland mayor hand-delivered his one-page correspondence to the Banner, and discussed his decision to reply.

“I saw Braelyn’s original letter in the Banner and I was touched that a young girl of this age would not only reach out to the state of Tennessee and its citizens as her class project, but specifically would identify the city of Cleveland as a resource for information,” Rowland explained. “In our community, we have always believed in supporting our young people, and that belief carries beyond state borders.”

Rowland urged other Cleveland and Bradley County residents, organizations, civic clubs, churches, schools, nonprofit groups, government leaders and anyone within the Southeast Tennessee region who saw the young girl’s letter, to respond as well.

“As Tennesseans, and as members of this community, it speaks highly of anyone who will take just a few minutes of their time to write back to Braelyn and to offer a little of ourselves — stories about our families, about our lifestyle here, about Cleveland and Bradley County culture ... just anything that a seventh-grade student can use to complete a class project about a state where she lived at too early an age to have any real memories,” Rowland said.

Braelyn’s letter was published on the Banner’s Editorial Page in its original form, and also became the subject of an editor’s personal column in the same edition. Last Friday, the girl’s interest in Tennessee was even addressed in an editorial.

“I am a seventh-grade student at Goff Junior High School in Pawtucket, R.I.,” the girl’s letter reads. “In my geography class, we are making a project that lasts a whole semester, and it is on one of the 50 states in the United States. I chose to do my project on Tennessee which is my favorite state.”

Her letter, which was addressed to the Banner and to the attention of “Editor,” added, “Could you please publish this letter in your paper so your readers could help me with my project? My teacher said that firsthand information from citizens of our chosen state would be much more helpful than information we find ourselves.”

The girl’s teacher, Brian Gilmore, sent an accompanying letter further explaining the project. Gilmore’s letter also offered a look at Goff Junior High School and the challenges faced by its district.

“Like any urban school district, Pawtucket has its share of challenges,” Braelyn’s third-period instructor wrote. “Roughly about 80 percent of our students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. However, Goff Junior High School is the only high-performing junior high school in the district. The students take an active interest in school and responsibility for their studies.”

Gilmore’s letter added, “By publishing [her] letter, and hopefully with your readers’ response, [she] will be able to produce a written report, poster board and oral presentation.”

Copies of the teacher’s letter accompanied each correspondence that was written and mailed by his students.

In a separate email to the Banner, Gilmore pointed out Braelyn wrote letters to two Tennessee newspapers, but he was uncertain of the identity of the second publication or its geographic location. He also confirmed that his student “... was actually a resident of your state when she was a young child. The reason she chose Tennessee is to learn what it is like because she was too young to remember.”

Advised that a couple of Cleveland Daily Banner readers had expressed an interest in contacting other Tennessee cities to encourage them to send information, Gilmore pointed out, “Please let your readers know whatever they can personally send from their own experiences would suffice.” He thanked Cleveland and Bradley County residents for their heartwarming support of his student’s project.

Rowland’s letter to Braelyn, which is published verbatim in today’s edition of the Banner as a “Letter to the Editor,” describes the city’s size, its educational amenities, its geography, history and its manufacturing heritage.

He also points to the community’s 1-year-old nickname, “The City With Spirit,” and explains to the youngster, “There are many reasons why this slogan applies and space will not allow me to elaborate on the many other excellent attractions and historical notes about our city of Cleveland. I was pleased you chose Tennessee because it is one of your favorite states. I think you would find Cleveland a great place to visit.”

Cleveland Daily Banner readers, and any Cleveland and Bradley County area resident, group, school, church or organization, wishing to forward information to Braelyn may mail it to: Braelyn F. (Mr. Gilmore’s Period 3 Class), Goff Junior High School, 974 Newport Ave., Pawtucket R.I. 02861.