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. After two years at the Celentano School (The Celentano Sentinel), in 2013 we came to East Rock Community School and are now supported by Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs. The afterschool program has 35-50 students in grades 2-8 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. During the 2013 New Haven mayoral race, Sentinel reporters interviewed all seven candidates in person. In October 2014 two East Rock Record reporters covered First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to New Haven. Reporters have written about gun violence, the economy, school uniform policies, a proposed sugar tax, and cybercrime, among numerous issues.
Prominent guests have visited with students and answered queries in “press conferences.” They include Mayor Toni Harp, New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman, FBI Special Agent in Charge Patricia Ferrick, and School Superintendent Garth Harries. Artists have performed for student reviewers, including filmmaker Magalis Martinez, musician José Oyola, and the Yale Whiffenpoofs. Reporters have interviewed top experts in medicine, public health, obesity, bullying, and Ebola, and travel each spring to the state Capitol 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 its process. Students are asked constantly to think, to observe, to make meaning out of events and ideas. Writing, after all, is about thinking. If you cannot think clearly, you cannot write clearly. This is about them figuring out what they think, and, critically, how to ask great questions. We highly value social skills and civility. Each issue is capped by a publication party that features community guests who come to celebrate, and requires reporters to welcome, hold conversations, and host (they cut and serve cake to guests).