June 11, 2014 at 7:47 PM
When the envelope arrived from the White House, Thomas Kasper couldn’t believe his eyes.
Inside was a letter from First Lady Michelle Obama personally addressed to Thomas, a student at Somerset Hills School in North Plainfield.
“I was so surprised,” Thomas said. “I thought my teachers were just bluffing me, but it was real.”
As part of a class project assigned by teacher Jan Foley, Thomas and his classmates were instructed to write a letter to the First Lady about new federal regulations for school lunches.
“A lot of the kids were complaining about the new lunches because now the portions are smaller and the food is healthier with more vegetables and less junk food,” said Foley, who teaches written expression. “I thought it would be good for them to write either pro or con about the new regulations.”
Thomas wrote in favor of the new federal regulations.
“I agree with the idea that you had about the certain amount of food you should have in school,” Thomas wrote. “I think it’s a tremendous idea. It keeps students from getting overweight.”
Foley gave students the option of sending their letters to the White House, but Thomas said he was the only one who took the teacher up on the offer. She helped him format the letter on word processing software and worked with him to make sure it was free of grammatical and spelling errors.
Thomas sent the letter in mid March, not really expecting a response.
Then in early May, as Principal Maria Torres was going through the mail, she came across a big brown envelope from the White House.
“When I saw it was from the White House, I said, ‘I’m not opening this. It’s for a very special person’,” Torres said. The next morning, she walked it into Thomas’ classroom.
“When I heard ‘White House’ I knew it was from the project that I did,” Thomas said.
Along with the letter signed by Michelle Obama was a signed picture of the First Lady, a signed photo of the First Family, and photos of the Obama’s two Portuguese water dogs, Sunny and Bo.
“I thought we might get a letter back, but not the amount of that we got back in the package,” Foley said. “I thought this was much more personal. I’m a dog lover so I loved the pictures of Bo and Sunny.”
Thomas, who has been attending Somerset Hills for the last six years, will be graduating next year. The 17-year old said he is glad he took the extra effort to follow through and send the letter to the White House.
“It’s really great that I got her autograph and picture,” Thomas said. “I’m going to keep this for a long time.”