Local Boys & Girls Clubs teach kids to write their own ticket to success
by WILLIAM WRIGHT, Lifestyles Editor
Aug 12, 2012 | 1875 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Boys & Girls Club
MEET THE PRESS went both ways as writers from the Cleveland Daily Banner met with writers in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s new journalism program. Front left, are Olivia York, Daykota Smallen, Chris Neal, Johnny Wehry, Wyatt Reeves and Desmond Simpson. Middle left are Sasvance Baker, Shianna Kimpson, Amyia Brown, Salijacee Porter, Tyeisha Graham, Zane Moore and Nick Johnson. Back row left are Preteen Director Annalicia Alexander and Ellissa Lawson.
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The next group of professional writers seeking careers in journalism may have gotten their earliest start from the local Boys & Girls Clubs by means of a new initiative for youths interested in writing.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland is offering inspiration and assistance to youths ages 11 and 12 in producing their own in-house newspaper through a new journalism program at the youth center.

Annalicia Alexander, preteen director and Torch Club adviser at The Boys & Girls Clubs in Cleveland, said she is excited about the new program designed as a fun and informative way to bring out the journalistic potential in local youths who enjoy writing.

“We are composing our own newspaper,” Alexander said. “We have pictures of what we’re doing for general news, sports and for lifestyles. That includes what styles people are wearing, the music they listen to and coverage of the Youth of the Month being honored. We have someone who writes about our field trips, another person who recently wrote about the history of the Boys & Girls Club — and they’re interviewing people on our board who can tell us firsthand what it was like in the Boys & Girls Club in the past.”

The unique thing about the program, according to Alexander, is that “the kids are running it. I’m not touching it,” she said. “They have an editor, a chief-of-staff who goes over everything and a proofreader. I just received their articles for their next paper and it’s very exciting.”

So far, the staff of 15 to 30 youths have already printed five papers with numerous copies, and they are circulated at the center. Alexander, who is with the Johnson unit, said when local schools are back in session the students in the journalism program will be covering different school events as well.

As an adviser to the kids, Alexander said she suggest they “write about positive things and have a positive attitude toward negative things.”

“We’ve discussed bullying — why it’s still around, how we can fix it and why it is hurting us,” she said. “We do address our issues but we do so in a positive way.”

Since the skills acquired in journalism education produce qualities any employer would appreciate in a young employee, such as analytical thinking, sensitivity to deadlines, teamwork, clear writing and leadership skills, it is believed that offering such hands-on experience in this new program is a unique opportunity for youths to learn how to make it in a real work environment.

“If we start now it’s easier to create, mold and produce at this age than to wait until they’re already in college and then starrt wondering what might be the best career move,” Alexander explained. “If we [present] the opportunities and the different things we can do to promote their skills now, then maybe their career goals will be easier to achieve.”

When the students were asked why they would like to become journalists someday, some wrote out their answers. Olivia York wrote, “I want to be a journalist because no two stories are alike. Actually, if you think about it, being a journalist is like one of your stories. The readers never know what’s going to happen and neither do you. There’s always going to be times when you have no clue what to do, but that’s OK because that’s what being a journalist is about. That’s what makeing a journalist so intesting and a newspaper so cool to get to write for.”

Taylor Lawson wrote, “I would like to be a journalist. The reason why is because I find journalism very interesting. I find the strength of the emotions in writing fascinating. I found that the better the story is, the stronger the emotion. That is why I would like to be a journalist when I grow up.”

Tyeisha Graham wrote, “I want to be a part-time writer because I also want to dance. Writing takes a long time for me, but I approach it like dance steps so it’s much easier.”

Alexander said her students would love for their newspaper to reach the outside world, “But we don’t have the mass production skills to get there. We don’t want to advertise that we need this or that. We want to say, ‘Hey, we’re doing this and we are proud.’ This is a leadership initiative but it’s also an educational opportunity as well.”

Having been with Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland for nearly five years now, Alexander said she still loves her job and its impact on the lives of children in the community.

“If even one kid changes for the positive — that has made my day,” she said. “We teach, ‘Great futures start here.’ That’s what we’re doing. We also teach that diversity is not a bad thing. It’s cool to be different. Starting a newspaper is fun. We don’t all have the same skills. Each of us is different, so we work together. I’m very proud of all of them.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Tennessee is dedicated to promoting the educational, vocational and character development of youth in a safe, caring environment. The clubs serve youth from kindergarten age to 12th grade and are open after school and provide care all day during the summer months, school holidays and in-service days.

For further information, contact the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland at 472-6826 or visit www.boysandgirlsclubs.info/.