Of course we believe that local reporting is public service. But to underline the point – and help connect the corps members to the community in a different way – Report for America also requires each of our reporters to do a direct service project. These projects are focused on helping middle and high school students to create or enhance student-run journalism or storytelling projects (news websites, podcasts, broadcasts, etc). Through these projects, the corps members mentor the next generation of potential journalists — and teach broader skills crucial to all young people: listening, empathy, open-mindedness, intellectual honesty.
These projects are mostly done on the reporter’s own time but the selected news organizations are committed to their success and have pledged flexibility, as long as the primary work takes priority.
What follows are just a few examples of our corps members’ service projects.
Eric Shelton (Jackson, MS) is working with Operation U.P.W.A.R.D., a community organization that provides educational opportunities and family assistance to youth in the city. Shelton leads biweekly classes discussing the effective role photojournalism has in dialogue that creates change. Students are tasked to consider the issues important to them and their community and to capture those stories visually. Shelton leads critique workshops and guides students through the photo editing process. Images from this after-school program can be found on instagram at @youthphotojournalism.
Caity Coyne (Charleston, WV) worked with RFA alum Molly Born in 2018 to run a summer writing program for high school students through the Appalachian Center for Equity. In Coyne’s second year as a Report for America corps member, she is working with the Flipside, a recently revived teen newspaper published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Coyne will partner with high school teachers across the southern coal fields and Greater Kanawha Valley region to conduct journalism workshops with high school students with the aim of building trust and drawing interested high school students to submit their work to the Flipside and secure further mentorship on their writing.
Samantha Max (Macon, GA) is producing a podcast with students at Hutchings Charter College and Career Program, a career-preparedness magnet school where students from all six Bibb County’s public high schools spend half of their school day focused on a particular industry. Max has designed curriculum to bolster her students’ storytelling methods with the aim of capturing stories of residents and business owners in Macon. Students also learn how to write and edit scripts, interview subjects, and build trust within their community. Their work and her curriculum are inspired by Out of the Blocks, a podcast based at WYPR in Baltimore.
Mallory Falk (Las Cruces, NM) is working with the journalism program at Las Cruces High School. Once a week, Falk works with students to hone critical journalistic skills–pitching stories, conducting interviews and writing scripts. As a result of her participation, the school had the support necessary to partner with PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs to produce two projects focused on youth-related issues. Mallory is the official advisor for this project.
Obed Manuel (Dallas, TX) has returned to his alma mater, Skyline High School, to help revive the now-defunct print newspaper and transition it to a web-based publication. Manuel is advising the school’s journalism students and providing one-on-one mentoring, while also focused on improving students’ news literacy. Now a Dallas Morning News reporter, Manuel aspires to strengthen the newspaper enough for it to be competitive in the Dallas Morning News High School Journalism Day program, which would also help foster the community’s ties with the paper.
Alexandra Watts (Greenville, MS) has partnered with the Greenville Renaissance Scholars Program for middle school students. Every year, this program tackles a single project for students to execute throughout a single academic year. In 2018-2019, they aspire to produce a documentary on their hometown of Greenville. This fall, Watts is meeting with students once a week for mini training sessions on the journalistic skills necessary to carry out their project. Together, this spring, they will begin filming.