A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Budding reporters at WWB have the Times
of their life, remind us all of what matters


A WWB Times reporter learns to layout a newspaper page (Photo by Judy Clabes)

A WWB Times reporter learns to lay out a newspaper page. (Photo by Judy Clabes)

 

By Judy Clabes
KyForward editor
 

When an elementary school in Lexington, in the shadow of downtown and the state’s flagship university, is rated the worst-performing in Kentucky, that’s cause for both alarm – and action.
 

Rallying the village that it takes to raise a child, United Way of the Bluegrass – wearing its Big Bold Goal hat – pledged to provide a legion of volunteers for William Wells Brown Elementary and others.
 

I was among the many who raised their hands, volunteering in the WWB’s lively after-school program, coordinated by the unflappable Katie Washington, to help students create a student newspaper. Originally, about 17 students signed up for a weekly two-hour session to create from scratch the school’s first student newspaper.
 

Click image to see full version of the WWB Times

Click image to see full version of the WWB Times

To say the experience was educational – and I mean for me – is an understatement. I believe the students learned a few things, too, but in the end I’d call it in my favor as to who learned most.
 

My classroom teaching experience was mostly high school, way back when. I’ve been in and out of college classrooms in the interim in my other professional life, and while the love of students and the art of teaching have running threads no matter the age, elementary students are in a class of their own.
 

It was a real awakening to discover how much the world intrudes, often in the worst ways, for our youngest kids today. They carry so much baggage – a myriad of family relationships (functional and not), the burden of poverty, hunger, want, reality, anxiety, awareness, an acceptance of limited possibilities. These are things young children should not know in a society as flush as ours. Whatever the challenges or sins of the parents, these children are innocent – until, too soon, they are not.
 

This was painfully made apparent to me when on our first meeting, a sweet-faced 9-year-old boy – who I soon learned had terrific anger management issues – confided in me that he would likely be going to jail one day. I could hear my heart break.
 

The students fully embraced their project, starting with a group effort to determine its name: The WWB Times.
 

Next came a lively discussion about a “code of conduct” for staff members, which included the understanding that once you are part of an important group, like a newspaper, you are held to a certain standard of behavior. Ultimately, they wrote their own “code,” and that was a proud and teachable moment.
 

The crash course followed – news, features, interview techniques, Q&A’s, story subjects and brainstorming. We heard from professionals, journalism students and others. Ashley Hayes of United Way, Erin Grigson of KyForward.com, and my friend Sylvia Lovely (a consultant, business owner and attorney) were faithful helpers.
 

Intent on the taping

Intent on the KET taping

It was Sylvia who arranged the most interesting possible experience for the staff. She and Chef Jeremy Ashby of Azur Food Group co-host a KET show called “Food News and Chews” and they brought a taping of the show to WWB Elementary community kitchen so the students could be part of a TV production in the making.
 

It was magic. With their “press passes” and their reporters’ notebooks, the budding journalists conducted a “press conference” with the TV hosts, taking notes and pictures pre-taping. Then, the cameras rolled as the students took turns helping Chef Jeremy with the special “hot pockets” he had planned for them (secret sauce was entirely veggies which the kids didn’t know until they declared “delicious” and asked for more …). These special people brought individual sized “homemade” pizzas for the kids to take home to share.

Tune in to see our budding TV stars:
KETKY: Thursday, May 21 at 9:30 PM ET
KETKY: Saturday, May 23 at 9:30 AM ET

 

Sylvia Lovely and Chef Jeremy enjoy the students' questions.

Sylvia Lovely and Chef Jeremy enjoy the students’ questions.

Through the process of producing their newspaper, leaders emerged – those special kids who just step a bit ahead to take charge, set a pace, do what’s expected and more. Those staffers, Michelle Davis, Corlese Allen, Ryan King, Desean Green, became “editors” and joined me in a special (and stomach-churning for them) presentation to a meeting with the Fayette County School Board. They distributed their newspaper and spoke about their experiences. They spoke about being a leader, about the importance of good communication skills, about their code of conduct, and good writing and storytelling.
 

And when it was done, they thought of themselves as kids who could do anything they set their minds to.
 

How special is that?
 

LexMark was generous in printing the WWB Times. I wish the whole LexMark organization and all of you could have seen the faces of those kids when they saw the fruits of their labor. Such pride in an accomplishment as each one took a share of the stack to distribute to their fellow students and filed into a teachers meeting to distribute copies. Big smiles, trepidation, bravery – and joy. You were young once, weren’t you? Some things are just universal.
 

I’ve always found a certain magic in newspapers and a terrific enjoyment in children. To have shared these special times with the staffers of the WWB Times, to have made these new young friends, to have shared a journey to an accomplishment – well, that’s just plain priceless.
 

I recommend you try it – or something like it. There’s no end to the need. United Way’s Big-Bold-Goal-er Bill Farmer can give you plenty of reasons why It Matters.
 

And why every child deserves an opportunity to Matter, too.

 

An excerpt of Food News and Chews
featuring the WWB Times reporters

 

 


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