NASHVILLE - Fiona Murphey wanted to do something to improve the environment.
So the 13-year-old student at West End Middle School took the very American step of writing her congressman.
She wrote a five-page letter as part of an eighth-grade English assignment and she really didn't expect a reply from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper. She never dreamed the Nashville Democrat would show up at her school to surprise her in front of all her classmates.
But that's what happened recently.
"I wasn't sure he was going to read it," Murphey said of her letter. "I never thought I'd get to meet him."
Cooper presented Murphey with a certificate and announced that he would co-sponsor the renewable energy bill she asked him to support in her letter.
"On a day and time when there is so much bad news, it's remarkable what people can do, including young people," Cooper said.
The bill would allow the federal government to lease public land for wind and solar development. Fifty percent of the money received by the federal government would go to states and counties where the project is located, 25 percent toward a conservation fund, 15 percent for permit processing and 10 percent to federal deficit reduction.
"I want to start helping the planet right here and now, but in order to do it I need your help," Fiona wrote in the letter.
Her father, Ryan Murphey, said Fiona's passion for the environment has most likely been fueled by the time she has spent observing it.
Fiona was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, often called brittle bone disease. She uses a wheelchair and has had more than 100 broken bones during her lifetime, but she has not allowed her health challenges to suppress her positive attitude.
"She watched nature because she couldn't interact with it as much," Ryan Murphey said. "And she developed a visual sense in her writing. A lot of her engagement through the world is through her mind."
Fiona has been accepted into Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School next school year. She eventually wants to be an environmental engineer, develop affordable renewable energy sources and ultimately open her own energy company.
"It makes me really sad seeing pictures of these cities with all this smog, and I'd think 'I just don't want that to happen everywhere,' '' Fiona said. "If there is anything I can do about it, I'm going to do it."