James Henderson was so dismayed that his class lacked enough pencils and paper that he wrote to someone he felt could do something about it.
His principal at Leroy Nichols Elementary School? No.
The Lodi Unified School District board? Too small a government.
Maybe the governor? Still not big enough.
James went straight to the President of the United States of America — and President Barack Obama wrote back.
The student was one of 36 in Carey Downey’s sixth-grade class when the students were visited by school board president George Neely. The pre-teen aired his concerns to Neely, who told him there was little funding available for education at this time, Downey remembers.
That’s what triggered Henderson to take matters into his hands.
“He just felt like we were scrounging around,” Downey said.
Budgets for classroom supplies have dwindled in recent years, forcing teachers to use both sides of the paper and request donations from parents and businesses.
In his letter, Henderson told President Obama that he didn’t see how the government could continue to cut education funding when they lacked even the basics.
“I told him they were spending a lot more money on other things than school supplies,” Henderson said. “He told me people like me could change the country.”
The student thinks that could be the case if he puts his mind to it and follows his goals, he said, adding that receiving Obama’s letter was a great honor.
“Some people would think it was not that big of a deal, but I felt like I was important to get a letter from the president,” he said.
He keeps one copy of the letter safe in a folder and another covered in plastic hanging in his room.
James, who wrote the letter at the end of last school year, will enroll as a seventh-grader next month at Lodi Middle School.
This isn’t the first time he’s launched a letter-writing campaign. James nominated Downey for the News-Sentinel’s Classroom Hero contest, and he won.
The student also enjoys writing to family members around the country, playing sports and building outdoor furniture from wood. He lives in Lodi with his parents Mitchell and Tipring, and little brother, Tyler.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.