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Perham student reaches out to lawmakers about education issue

Leah Wuebben is taking matters into her own hands to help the Perham-Dent school district.

Wuebeben, a sophomore at Perham High School, has taken to e-mailing lawmakers around the state to raise awareness of the financial difficulties that Perham and other rural schools are facing.

According to Wuebben, her interest in the issue of education funding started when the first levy for the Perham School District failed three years ago.

"After the first levy, I started looking into why needed the levy, and I saw the numbers," she said. "The differences were just shocking. I thought, 'What can I do to get this fixed?'"

This year, Wuebben said, she started to do more research into the issue. After discussing it with Superintendent Tamara Uselman, Wuebben decided that she wanted to write to congress.

"I wanted to write a letter that was both factual, but also touched people on an emotional level," Wuebben said.

Wuebben has contacted lawmakers from many different districts throughout the state. Responses to her letters have varied, she said, but for the most part she's been happy with responses she's received.

Wuebben said that she planned to send an additional 10 to 15 letters to state senators over last weekend.

A couple of state representatives have expressed interest in meeting with her, Wuebben said.

"Uselman said that if there's a hearing, she'd love for me to go down there to testify," Wuebben said.

Wuebben is involved with speech at the high school, and would welcome the opportunity to speak in front of congress, she said.

"I'd love to show them what's really going on here," she said. "The big districts just don't understand what's going on here."

Wuebben is also involved with student council, manages the girl's basketball team, is Princess Altona of Vergas and also takes advanced placement classes.

"This issue is something I'm very passionate about," she said. "I love this school, and I love the teachers here. I don't want any of that taken away because the state's underfunding my school."

"It has been said over the years that each generation is smarter than the next," Wuebben wrote in an e-mail to Sen. John Carlson (R-Bemidji). "Therefore it is required for the amount of education to increase for people in my generation. In my lifetime technology has skyrocketed and the race to be better and smarter in young people today has increased tremendously. I'm sure you already know these things, because it is talked about every day, whether it's about a new type of technology that is being introduced or a new discovery in science. The world around us today is changing quickly, and I find that it is necessary to keep up."

"Discrimination is something that we as Americans do not like to associate ourselves with. When you think of discrimination, you automatically think of skin color, when in reality, discrimination is any sort of treatment based on class or category rather than individual merit. Just because I live in a small town, does not mean that I am less intelligent, less capable of achieving greater things, or less deserving."