Write Your Own Op-Ed
One way you can take action for your campaign is to write or recruit an advocate to write an op-ed for your local newspaper, magazine, blog, community, or school newsletter. Look for an advocate who is credible on the topic and well-known in your community to sign your op-ed, as they will likely draw in more readers for the publication. A recognized person in the community, a person with a strong personal story, or an expert in the issue area is a good place to start.
An op-ed is a written opinion editorial published in a local, regional, or national media outlet. Sometimes it’s a personal, emotional story—other times the facts are presented straightforward. Many people like to read op-eds because community ideas are important, and they can’t get those same opinions in objective journalism. When you write about your cause publicly, you’re spreading awareness to legislators, journalists, and members of your community, giving them the chance to learn more about the issue, form their own opinions about your cause, and, ideally, take steps to get involved.
Before you get started on your own story, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Your op-ed can be either emotional or rational. It all depends on the story you want to tell. The sample emotional op-ed below is an example of a soft-sell. It encourages readers to care about what the author cares about and uses personal touches to emphasize why this is important to the signer. A hard-sell op-ed presses the urgency of the issue and uses words like, “can’t,” “refuse,” “never,” and “now.”
- A rational introduction often includes statistics and logical explanations for why your issue is important. An example sentence for that kind of piece might sound like this: “Many young people in America struggle to stay healthy. With physical education decreasing in schools, we’re seeing obesity increase.”
- A strong headline is concise, gives the readers a preview of what you’re going to say, and also makes them curious enough to read it.
- You can also choose an influential signer; someone who is well known in your community and credible on the topic, like a doctor, researcher, or politician, and who can help you gain attention or earn a placement in a high-profile publication. Make sure to include the signer’s contact information—name, title, organization (if needed), e-mail, and phone number—in case the editors want to contact you/the signer.
Do you think your community is ready to learn more in an op-ed? Let’s get started by breaking down the sample emotional op-ed below.
Ex. Don’t You Want Our Children to Grow Up Healthy?
Ex. Jennifer Smith
My [elementary/middle/high] school gymnasium. It’s where my physical education (PE) teacher showed me how to position my arms just right so my free throws would swish into the basketball hoop, and where I learned how to spike a volleyball across the net. It’s also where I learned the importance of teamwork, whether it was I who was pulling the weight as the captain or taking a backseat role so others with stronger talents could take the lead. I still implement many of those lessons – the importance of physical activity, good nutrition and collaboration – in my life all these years later.
But I’m afraid the same opportunities that were afforded to me may not be available to my own child.
These days, kids aren’t getting enough structured PE. Schools, under so much pressure to have students perform well on standardized tests, often limit access to or even drop PE and health courses to devote more time for these tests. But by doing so, they could actually hurt the very kids they’re trying to help.
[INSERT ASK HERE IF THERE IS ONE.]
Studies show that regular physical activity, especially in schools, can improve academic performance and cognitive ability. Kids who move their bodies more perform better in math, reading and, yes, even standardized tests. For these reasons, it’s evident that the benefits of daily physical activity complement class time instruction rather than take away from it.
The good news is that there are positive solutions for kids across the country and right here in [STATE]. School districts are implementing recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Heart Association (AHA) to ensure students get at least 30 minutes of exercise each school day. For some school districts that face tight budgets, parents, teachers, community organizations and even students are working with their school boards to find more resources to increase the time spent in PE.
Investing in PE is investing in the long-term health and wellbeing of our kids. The benefits of providing children and teens with 150 minutes or more of weekly physical activity go far beyond increased scores on standardized tests. It’s the foundation for better physical and mental health, prevention of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, and improved quality of life.
Teachers, neighbors, fellow parents: it’s up to us to make sure schools are providing our kids with the proper physical education classes to grow up resilient, smart and strong. If we want our kids to have success in the future, we must Exercise their Minds™ and protect PE in schools nationwide. Join me in standing up for the health of our children and supporting physical education in schools.
[REITERATE ASK HERE IF THERE IS ONE.]