Pictured: Alyssa Albiar, a 9-year-old student at Mary R. Garcia Elementary School, recently received a letter from President George W. Bush. Photo by CHRISTOPHER MAHER

Mary R. student wrote to President about concerns over tigers

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

When 9-year-old Alyssa Albiar learned in school last year that tigers and other large cats are coming close to extinction in other parts of the world, she decided something had to be done.

So, she wrote a letter to the president.

Last week, months after mailing that letter, she received the shock of her young life when she went to the mailbox and found that he had written her back.

Alyssa, the daughter of Richard and Melissa Albiar, first learned about the trouble tigers are in during a third-grade class on endangered animals at Mary R. Garcia Elementary School in Alice. Not content with that information, she went to the library and demanded all the books they could provide on tigers.

Armed with knowledge, she and a friend quickly formed a protest group to raise awareness about the tigers, but the group struggled to gain traction in the shifting political landscape of the third grade.

"People are killing the tigers for their skins and for their heads and for their meat, and I didn't think that was right," Alyssa said. "I thought maybe I could do a protest to make a difference."

Alyssa, who watches the news regularly, decided she would have to get President Bush involved in the debate.

"I wrote to him and told him that I didn't think tigers should be extinct, and that there should be a law in Africa and all the places where tigers are being killed," Alyssa said.

She placed the letter in an envelope and wrote "To the White House, the President of the United States" on the outside. After a great deal of pestering, she finally got her mother to place it in the mailbox in May.

Melissa Albiar said her daughter has always been very outspoken, so she tries to support her.

"I thought I would let her write it, and encourage her," Melissa said. "She's amazing. I'm proud of her."

Without a proper address, however, Melissa said she was sure the letter would be returned in a few weeks.

Last week, a large yellow envelope with the return address of "The White House" was waiting for them in their mailbox.

The envelope contained a picture of the president and a letter addressed to Alyssa, signed by George W. Bush.

"Dear Alyssa, thank you for writing. I am always pleased to hear from young Americans. This summer, Mrs. Bush and I encourage you to enjoy the great outdoors, play sports, read and participate in fun activities like biking and hiking," the letter stated. "Summer is also a good time to volunteer in your community. By helping someone in need, you can enrich your own life and help make our country a better place.

"May God bless you, and may God bless America."

Although President Bush's letter did not address the tiger issue, Alyssa is sure some action will be taken soon.

"I think he is going to do something about it," Alyssa said. "But I know it takes some time to get it to Congress and make it a law for Africa."

The next task on Alyssa's agenda is to complete the fourth grade, but she's already making plans for when school is finished.

"I'm going to try to be a reporter," Alyssa said. "And after my reporting days are over I want to find out if I can start to be the president."

While she is working on those goals, she challenged others to set goals of their own.

"I want to let everyone know that they can always make a difference," Alyssa said. "Every kid in the United States can make a difference."