Service Sparks: Write to Your Representative
Ignite meaningful action that lights up the world through "Service Sparks" youth projects!
As a citizen, it is your duty to voice your opinions to your elected representatives. You can influence our government by persuading members of the US Congress to take action regarding a cause or issue you have strong feelings about. Use this template to help you compose your own letter to a representative in your state.
- Your voice can impact the government because your representatives work for you. Voicing your concern via a letter helps inform representatives to know the changes their constituents want to see.
- Brainstorm: Make a list of issues that matter to you, your school, or your community. These may come from reading newspapers and stories from reliable sources and discussing the issues with your family and friends. Choose your top three issues that are most important to you to change or hold on to. Write them down. This group activity may help you identify where your interests lie.
- Do more research on these three issues. Identify what legislation has already been passed in regards to this issue on the state and federal level. Does this legislation match your position? Is there more that you think could be done to make a change or make sure the laws protect people and ideas? Write some persuasive language under each issue. As you learn and write, decide which of the three issues is most important to you to speak up about.
- Use an Internet search to identify your representatives. Go to the Vote Smart website to look up who your representatives are at all levels of government. Enter your full address under the words "Search Vote Smart." It will provide the names of each person, and clicking on their names brings you to their actions, stand on "issue categories," and contact information. You can also go to Congress.gov for national-level representatives.
- Read about how they stand on the issue you care most about. Decide if you will write a letter to change their mind or tell them you support their actions.
- Write a letter to your representatives formed around the issue that you researched. This letter can be persuasive, to petition them to see things your way and act on your behalf. Or it could be a letter of thanks for upholding the values you also believe in about certain issues. Here is a sample template to follow. Address the envelope and mail it to your representative.
- When you write a letter, you are volunteering through advocacy. An advocate pleads the cause of another, defends or maintains a cause or proposal, or supports or promotes the interests of another.
- Learn more with a Learning to Give lesson plan on Art as Advocacy. The children's book Say Something explores the many ways people of all ages can use their voices to influence others.
Reflection: You are likely to get a response from your representative. What did they say that made you feel heard? What would you like to do to encourage your peers to also write letters? An advocacy poster is an effective way to communicate your opinion and call people to take action.
Explore more Service Sparks activities.
Learning to Give ...
- educates youth about philanthropy, the civil society sector, and the importance of giving their time, talent and treasure for the common good (knowledge),
- equips youth by encouraging philanthropic behavior and experience (skills), and,
- empowers youth to take voluntary citizen action for the common good in their classrooms, lives and communities (behavior).