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PBS NewsHour story from St. Petersburg shows how local journalism programs can change young lives

On Saturday, I sat in a conference room at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, and watched as a roomful of kids changed their lives.

The occasion was Poynter's Write Field program, an initiative which gets together a group of young males from area middle schools -- often African American -- using a series of activities based around journalism and personal communication to teach discipline, a drive for excellence and the notion that these kids can achieve anything they desire. See more here.

With various reports indicating male students of color in Pinellas County face historically high risks for dropping out of school and falling into violence, Poynter's program makes all kind of sense, allowing adult mentors like me, police officers, area doctors and other journalists -- led by Kenny Irby and Stephen Buckley at the Poynter Institute -- to spend time with youth who could use positive male role models in their lives.

The thing you learn from programs like this, is how hard it is to predict what might push a promising kid into great achievements. They have so much heart and untapped potential, all they need is the right skills, resources and confidence to learn how to channel all that energy into amazing results -- something Poynter's program does a great job of providing. 

Recently, PBS' NewsHour profiled one of our kids from the program, De'Qonton Davis, highlighting the way in which he and his classmates at Johns Hopkins Middle School have used journalism skills developed through programs co-founded and sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times.

Johns Hopkins is among nearly 30 schools across the country linked through the NewsHour's Student Reporting Labs project. Locally, they're given help by staffers at Tampa PBS station WEDU-Ch. 3, as well as their teachers in the journalism program.

Watch Fighting Chance? Students Investigate Middle School Violence on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Much as this may sound like a commercial for my employer, it's really just  a way of recognizing how all these efforts can come together to give kids tools for dissecting their world in ways even we professional journalists have trouble matching. I remember sitting on a panel of experts who helped winnow candidates for the journalism teaching job at Melrose Elementary many years ago; now the Journeys in Journalism program is established at Melrose, Johns Hopkins and Lakewood High School, giving De'Qonton and his friends the tools to speak to the world.

This story aired on PBS a couple of weeks ago, but I was reminded of it again Saturday sitting in the Write Field session, marveling at how easy it is to overlook amazing kids mining greatness from the seeds of opportunity planted by teachers and role models who care.

Anyway, take a look at this wonderful PBS story; its a great piece about smart kids in our own backyard:

Watch 8th-Grade Journalist Spotlights Violence in School on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 11:00am]


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