Two weeks ago, I spent a day with Dr. Ellen Shelton and her 11th grade Advanced Placement English students at Tupelo High School in Tupelo, Mississippi. Ellen's students are participating in Letters to the Next President: Writing Our Future, an online writing and publishing project sponsored by Google and the National Writing Project.

During the U.S. presidential campaign season, thousands of middle and high school students (ages 13-18) are writing persuasive letters and essays to the presidential candidates about the issues and concerns that they'd like the next president to address. Teachers are using Google Docs to incorporate online editing, peer review, and revisions, and students are publishing their letters online for their peers, parents, and the public to read.

At Tupelo High, Ellen's students told me that they were writing about issues such as health care, education, the economy, and the price of gas. I was impressed not only by the variety of issues they were covering, but also by how they were able to describe how these issues affect their lives as well as their family and friends. Although most of Ellen's students will be too young to vote on Nov. 4, it is heartening to know that they were making a difference by voicing their thoughts through their writing.

So far, 962 students from 46 schools have published letters on our project website, and during the next few weeks, there will be thousands more. You can also find out what issues matter to Ellen's students and students from other parts of the U.S.

Photo credit: Will White, Tupelo Hi-Times