WEST VALLEY CITY — For months people heard claims that Donald Trump’s policies could tear families apart. Some students at Hillside Elementary School ended up repeating that phrase with quite a bit of fear following Trump's election as president.
Fourth-grade teacher Chantelle Fairbanks said questions kept coming about Trump and immigration.
“One of my other students spoke up and said, ‘I’m concerned he’s going to break apart our families,’ and that’s when tears started to flow and … anxiety started to break out,” Fairbanks said.
Fairbanks turned the questions into an unexpected lesson on U.S. government Wednesday. The class not only learned about the role of Congress in creating new laws, but how they could play a role in that process, she said.
Fairbanks also empowered the fourth-graders by letting them know that even though they can’t vote, they can write letters and let their voices be heard.
Each of the students is now sending letters to their congressional leaders — Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah — to share their concerns.
“I’m sad because my family could probably be torn apart, so when you make a decision, think about other people with concerns, and think about me," fourth-grader Luis Aguilera.
“I am writing you because of my concerns about Mr. Trump," student Chynna Gutierrez said, reading from her letter. "I am worried that my family will be torn apart because my dad is Mexican, and I love him.”
Fourth-grader Leslie Sepulveda wrote that she had "some concerns about the election, and I don’t really like who won, because Mr. Trump is mean to girls.”
“People will cry because their family doesn’t have papers. He is not just mean to Mexicans. He is mean to Africans and Americans," she said. "Just remember that families will be torn apart, more racism probably, another civil war, kids will cry. Just think about it.”
Those letters are now being sent out together. Many of the students said the lesson made them feel much better about their families.
“I felt great … because I knew that I was safe,” Chynna said. “Because now I know I can actually write letters to people that are really, really important."
Fairbanks said the students were noticeably more secure in their feelings Thursday.
“Even though they’re little voices, their letters can make it to the heart of our representatives,” she said.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc