Student learns his letters can make a difference


Christopher Osborn never knew his voice could make a difference, but he has learned.

As part of a school independent service project, the 12-year-old middle school student wrote Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and asked her to share her views on community service, staying in school and reading.

Today, Mrs. Townsend is scheduled to speak to about 800 students in the Old Mill High School auditorium.

Christopher said he was surprised to get a response to his letter. "I didn't think they would pay attention to me," the Crownsville resident said, referring to Mrs. Townsend and the others he wrote. "I didn't know they would listen to sixth-graders."

While the rest of his class at Old Mill Middle School South held a readathon in March as their service project to raise money for the county Literacy Council, the youth pored over local telephone books for the phone numbers and addresses of community leaders.

He wrote to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Mrs. Townsend, the Naval Academy, a professional soccer player and one of his former teachers at Millersville Elementary.

All of them wrote back, but only a midshipman and Mrs. Townsend had time for a visit. The midshipman visited the school in April.

Mrs. Townsend is expected to attend a reception at the middle school about 2 p.m., then talk to students about public service. She helped make service projects a statewide requirement for high school graduation.

"One of the things that's always been important to her is that students' focus not be narrow to individual goals, but that they consider the greater community as well," said Charles F. Porcari, a spokesman for Mrs. Townsend.

Diane Osborn, Christopher's mother, said the family decided Christopher would do a project different from those of the rest of the students because she wanted her son to learn more about public service than how to raise money.

"I wanted him to learn how to write a proper letter, to be resourceful, how to carry on conversation," she said.

As part of his project, Christopher also researched the Kennedy family history, learning about Mrs. Townsend's father, former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and her uncle, former President John F. Kennedy, both of whom were assassinated.

He also learned that one of Mrs. Townsend's aunts helped found the Special Olympics. Christopher said he wants to be a volunteer for the sporting event this summer.

One teacher said she hopes Christopher's letter-writing campaign will start a trend of independent projects in the school.

"We're hoping that students will see the need in their own community to do projects outside of the school system," said Lois Lee Porter, Christopher's language arts teacher.

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