Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Elle Perry
Teen Appeal Coordinator
I started working for the Teen Appeal in the fall of 2011. In working for this program I have had only one student that has been here through my entire tenure.
After working for the Teen Appeal for two years, she became the editor of her high school paper this year. During this school year, she has managed the duties of both organizations.
When she gets to college this fall, White Station High School senior Sudeshna Barman says she plans to write for her college publication.
Her planned major? Either astrophysics or economics.
I use this example to convey that many students who participate in scholastic journalism, through the Teen Appeal, individual high school newspapers, or school broadcasting programs, never actually end up working for a professional news organization.
And that’s okay.
Studies have shown that students who participate in scholastic journalism are among the brightest.
A 2008 study by the Newspaper Association of America found that high school journalists had better high school grade point averages, better ACT scores (composite, English, and Reading), as well as better English grades and grade point averages during their freshman year of college.
These same students fare better in high school math, social studies, science, English, foreign language, and art than students who are not involved in scholastic journalism.
Researchers involved in the 2008 study point out that some think this may happen because “better” students seek out journalism in high school.
In my experience, Teen Appeal students are among the best in Memphis. On my current staff, I have students who are incredibly gifted artists, who can use a digital single lens reflex (i.e. professional) camera as good as any student already in college, and who analyze and synthesize information about such obscure things as education policy (and enjoy the challenge of doing so).
And even before I arrived at this job, Teen Appeal students were being accepted into colleges such as Yale, St. John’s, Northwestern, Harvard, and Spelman.
Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center Frank LoMonte penned a piece about the many positive attributes students learn from working on a high school newspaper. They included analytical skills, improved writing, sensitivity to deadlines, leadership, the importance of teamwork, ethics, empowerment through student voice, and the simulation of an actual work environment.
I have witnessed these same things in my own students.
I have seen students grow and progress as writers. I have seen students who started off as shy sophomores grow into poised and confident seniors excited to begin college.
And I must say that I am proud to see several seniors this year actually plan to major in photojournalism, journalism, mass communications, and public relations.
Teen Appeal students help motivate each other and give each other advice. They start off as strangers and become friends with students from different schools, different races, and sometimes even different countries.
I’d like at least one student from every Shelby County Schools high school next year to have that experience. It’s not the right fit for all, but for many it’s perfect.
The application is on our site.