When students at North Elementary School in Somerset, Massachusetts, return to school next month, they will see a major change on campus and it is all thanks to 10-year-old twins Henry and Henriet James.
Henry and Henriet, who will be in the fifth grade this fall, decided to take action last year when it came to the school’s long-standing policy that students had to sit with students of the same sex from their homeroom class during lunch.
“Boys and girls couldn’t sit together,” Henriet told ABC News. “It was separating people.”
The siblings decided to write an article about the policy in their school’s newspaper and pitched their idea to Sharon Puccini, the fourth-grade newspaper's adviser.
“They came up with the idea themselves,” Puccin told The Herald News. “I said, ‘Go for it.’”
Henry and Henriet spent five weeks doing research and conducting interviews for the article, which was published last June and titled, “Why don’t boys and girls sit together in cafeteria?”
“It took us a while to get all the ideas and type them down in a way that made sense,” Henry said, describing himself as surprised to be able to interview the school’s principal and vice-principal for the article.
“It was surprising and it was also surprising to get interviewed right now,” Henry said of his interview with ABC News and all the attention the article has since received.
“The hardest part was finding the ideas and making them interesting in a way that people would want to read the article,” added Henriet. “We wrote it together and thought of the ideas together.”
The school’s principal, Elaine Sabra, told ABC News she was very impressed by the finished article.
“It was well-written and well-thought out,” Sabra said. “They absolutely had valid points and it gave them a voice.”
Sabra said the article was so well done that, over the summer, the school decided to change the gender-specific lunch seating policy, which she said had been put in place long before she became principal four years ago.
Sabra is set to announce the change at the first Parent-Teacher Organization meeting of the new school year next week. She said she hopes Henry and Henriet and their classmates take away an important lesson from the experience.
“That students have a voice and to not be afraid of researching, investigating and following your passions,” Sabra said. “It was well done.”
Henry and Henriet, who are both still unsure of their future careers, say they “feel good” about the lunchroom change.
“We can’t wait to see how it’s going to turn out,” Henriet said.
“It was just a really nice experience, to learn how to write for a newspaper, do interviews for a newspaper and to actually get it published,” Henry said. “It’s been fun.”
As they move up this year into the fifth-grade newspaper club, the twins said they will stay on the lookout for stories to investigate.
“This was the big one, but maybe if we look hard enough, we may find something else that we want to write about,” Henry said.