The New Haven Student Journalism Project
I started the NHSJP in 2011 to bring the joy and power of journalism to New Haven Public School students. We started at the Celentano School (The Celentano Sentinel), but since 2013 have worked at the East Rock Community School supported by Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs. The after school program has 35-50 students in grades 2-8. They work in reporting teams with Yale mentors to produce a newspaper, The East Rock Record. The newspaper is published twice a year; we distribute 3,000 copies throughout the school and New Haven communities. Printing is supported by paid advertising.
NHSJP reporters have covered some of the most important stories of the day. Reporters tracked the 2016 election, from primary through Election Day, organizing a mock election at the school. Students reported early on about New Haven’s sanctuary city status and how Trump administration approaches to issues, including immigration, are playing among members of their community, school and families. Reporters cover the most urgent issues of the day, along with lighter features: they have written about food security, gun violence, computer hacking — as well as the popularity of Pokemon and whether the bathrooms at East Rock School are haunted.
Reporters have interviewed prominent leaders — including Mayor Toni Harp and FBI Special Agent in Charge Patricia Ferrickin — during press conferences held in the school library. They have met with street youth workers and food pantry organizers, police officers, and school department officials, including COO William Clark. Reporters have hosted guest artists, including muralist Kwadwo Adae, filmmaker Phen Dest (and subject Henry Green), the Long Wharf Theatre cast of Brownsville Song, the Yale Wiffenpoofs and musician José Oyola, among others. Reporters have interviewed top experts in medicine, public health, obesity, bullying, and Ebola. They travel each spring to the state Capitol in Hartford to meet and interview lawmakers and visit with the state’s political reporters in the press room.
The finished product – the published newspaper – is of very high quality. But the greatest value of this program is student engagement in the process. Students are asked constantly to think, observe, and to make meaning out of events and ideas. From initial brainstorming to publication reporters are in charge and responsible for thinking and sharing. This project — like so much about writing — is about them exercising their curiosity, learning to ask questions and then figuring out how to best communicate what they know (and in the case of the opinion pages, what they believe). We highly value social skills and civility. Each issue is capped by a publication party that features community guests, teachers and family members who come to celebrate. Reporters welcome them, hold conversations, and host (they cut and serve cake to guests). Follow us on Instagram.