The News School is an accelerated reading and writing program designed to teach youth how to fashion effective news and information reports at a professional journalism level.
Chicago Youth, ages 13 to 24, who participate in The News School’s journalism program will earn at least $50.00 per week to cover transportation to and from its North Lawndale campus. Adults receive $100.00 after finishing the online boot-camp program.
Once a student has successfully completed the program, they will be awarded a journalism certification certificate. This award is given to students that complete all assigned news reports and pass a comprehensive reading and writing exam.
Since the program is a boot-camp-style class, the work can be difficult as it gets increasingly harder as time progresses.
Although participants get paid for the work they perform, The News School offers so much more than simply a job. It offers students a rare opportunity to enhance their reading and writing skills through a set of fun and interesting learning activities.
Some youth who have enrolled in the program do not take it seriously. These young people usually end up failing to do the work or regularly miss class. According to a graduate of The News School’s intense boot-camp style program, some students fail to understand that the tools, techniques, and skills acquired in the learning process will help them successfully transition from high school to college and from college into their chosen professional career.
Graduates of The News School have called the learning process special because it is quite different from typical courses found in public schools. When students begin, they are placed in the newsroom, a place where writers go to fashion their stories for magazines and online newspapers. Each student is given a laptop and headphones, and are instructed to bring pen and paper. Then the learning begins.
The professor shares Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes that are taught and reinforced. The instructor makes it easy and fun for them to learn by using a short story (anecdote) or word to help the students understand its etymological meaning.
The News School reinforces learning by regularly testing students on terms, definitions and material that were taught during class sessions. These terms are given to broaden the student’s vocabulary and make them stronger readers because it forces them to read more deliberately.
Once the instructor goes through a plethora of vocabulary words, the real work begins. The professor gives each student a topic to write about and has them fashion articles for several online newspapers.
One of the online newspapers is titled, The Public Slate. It provides students with a news and information platform so that they can complete and submit their article assignments to an editor for review. Once the editor reviews a student’s work, the article is either published or sent back to the student for further revision.
In the newsroom, there are two additional instructors that interact with students via WebEX, a virtual online classroom. These two instructors also edit and grade student article submissions. They help the primary instructor conduct the class as well as provide individual help to students in need of extra attention. Their efforts are greatly appreciated, according to one student that just finished the program.
When reviewing articles, editors leave comments about a student’s submission before it is published. These comments inform students about grammar and punctuation issues that need to be addressed before the article can be published. It is quite refreshing to learn that they do not bash students or criticize their work. Instead, they encourage them and highlight the good aspects of what a student has written.
There are many facets of The News School that are similar to that of a regular school, and yet, it is different. For example, field trips will be taken just like that of a traditional school. However, these trips are centered on interviewing people and gathering information to write articles.
If a student passes The News School’s class, they will be given press credentials and become a certified cub reporter. If they pass with a grade 90 percent or higher, they will be given a job opportunity.
The News School staff is working to ensure each student reaches their potential. Instructors are willing to stay after the class and give students the extra help they need, if necessary.
Participation in The News School program is significant because students have the opportunity to learn things that will actually help them in school and in life.
Opinion by Trinity Oglesby
Edited by Cathy Milne
Image Courtesy of Travis Nep Smith’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License