What happens when a group of high school students who work on a school newspaper notice a decline in kids’ interest in writing and reading? Exactly what everyone should do, they started working on a solution to teach kids to love writing and to apply that love of writing outside of the classroom. This was the challenge facing Start A Snowball Grantee, June Lee, a Sunnyvale, CA, high school student and editor to her school’s newspaper, The Lancer. June says, “As an editor and reporter for several of my school newspapers, I have always loved the ability of newspapers to draw communities closer together through their portrayal of local/national/international occurrences. Additionally, while looking at my younger brother and children at the local elementary school, I realized how much youth interest in writing and reading was in decline, and realized that newspapers could be applied to solve the problem.” With this thought in her head, she set forth on her journey to spread her love of writing.
The first thing June did was enlist other students with a similar passion to volunteer for youth education. Together, they formed the Sunnyvale Youth Newspaper Committee with the goal to teach local youth to apply writing both inside and outside of the classroom. June states: “Newspaper reporting/editing is one form in which we hope to kindle youth enthusiasm for literature. By increasing youth involvement in the art of newspaper writing, we hope to increase their awareness and involvement in the community while also reviving this method for global interaction and communication.” One of the main activities of this youth led committee is to host summer and winter break camps for local youth in grades 5-8. They are geared toward inspiring interest in writing, while improving reading/writing skills through the newspaper. This camp is free of charge to the kids that attend and aims to expose students to different types of writing styles (interview/investigative reporting, letters-to-the-editor, editorials, cartooning), inspire interest in writing and greater involvement in the community, and to help students experience the process of writing, editing, and publishing their own individual newspaper.
June and her committee work tirelessly to make the camp successful. Through weekly meetings they plan the camp curriculum, publicize the camp throughout their community, and secure editors from local newspapers like the San Jose Mercury News and Town Crier to speak to the campers about their jobs and how youth can become more involved in their field. During the week long program kids create their own mini-newspaper and present it on the final day of camp, get to see their letters to the editor published in the local Sunnyvale Sun Newspaper, and have the opportunity to be invited to work with the Los Altos Town Crier as a youth reporter during the upcoming school year. At the conclusion of the camp, the students are encouraged to take advantage of opportunities to become involved with their local and school newspapers.
During the summer of 2014, the camp hosted 38 students and received a grant from Start A Snowball to help pay for supplies and snacks. They received glowing feedback from campers and parents indicating that their goal of increasing students’ interest in local news and writing was successful. They plan on continuing to realize their passion of teaching kids to love writing, and carrying on with the camp each year and also expanding it to cover summer and winter breaks. This is an amazing example of youth helping youth, and the impact one person can have when they are passionate about helping others. Check out their news coverage by The San Jose Mercury News and The Teenage Views Blog.
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By: Mac Winslow, Co-Founder and President, Start A Snowball