For many students, the decision to pursue a future in journalism begins at an early age, often discovering their passion while writing for the high school newspaper or directing the school’s morning news show.
Unfortunately, not all students are afforded such opportunities because of the economic realities of urban education. In fact, the average urban student has no exposure to journalism in high school. Luckily for students in Philadelphia who find themselves in that situation, an initiative called Prime Movers Philadelphia has been implementing change.
Heading the initiative is the School of Media and Communication. Students who register for the High School Journalism Workshop through the department of journalism work with teachers and local journalists in leading a journalism club at local high schools in the city. This course allows Temple students to work directly with Philadelphia high school students. There, Temple students help the high schools develop its media productions and individual students develop his or her journalistic voice. The students meet once a week at Temple and twice a week at a nearby high school.
For the Temple students involved, the program is as much a learning experience for them as the students they assist, said Maida Odom, internship coordinator for the department of journalism.
As part of the program, students spend time discussing readings from urban education experts who detail some things they might see when they arrive at their assigned schools. Among the issues explored in those readings is the lack of resources faced by urban school districts, the pressures that teachers face and how outside forces like a student’s home life can affect learning. Once inside the actual classroom, Temple students gain firsthand experience overcoming obstacles like how to put out a newspaper or create a webcast in a place where resources are scarce.
“Public schools can be a difficult place to work,” Odom said. “The buildings can be old and intimidating and it is not uncommon for students to tell me they don’t want to be there or feel frightened.”
Senior journalism major Jesse Papineau said he felt weary at first.
“The program showed me that there are so many misconceptions about inner-city schools that are mostly unfounded, and won’t be assuaged until you visit and experience it firsthand,” Papineau said.
In the end, he said that Prime Movers Philadelphia turned out to be an extremely beneficial experience for him both as a journalist and as a person.
A lot of students can relate to Papineau’s experience, Odom said.
“By the end of the program, students feel very committed and often tell me that they don’t want to stop helping out,” Odom said.
Odom added that as a result, many students choose to pursue another educational opportunity like Teach for America.
“I would recommend it to any of my peers,” Papineau said. “It was truly an eye-opening experience for me.”
Started by Dorothy Gilliam and Acel Moore, a former award-winning columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, the program — the first intensive journalism mentorship program of its kind — gives students after-school journalism experience and training in print, broadcast and online media. Originally based in Washington, D.C., the program was designed to help schools in districts that have no budgetary ability to create school newspapers and radio station experiences for its students.
With the help of funding from the John S. and James Knight Foundation, Prime Movers Philadelphia launched in 2007. In its first year, the program helped six schools but since then has expanded to 20 area schools.
Students interested in the program can register for High School Journalism Workshop during the current registration period for Spring 2013.
Bri Bosak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.