One Summer Chicago 2016: The News School Dynamic Youth Program at Work



The One Summer Chicago Youth Employment Program began Monday, June 27, 2016, and sought to place over 25,000 youth, ages 14-24, into a summer program that consisted of work experience, internships, and some creative outside-the-box youth program approaches.

When the program ended, most of the participating government approved institutions, public and civic organizations, private business collaborators, many youth, and young adults came away from their summer program experience with different results.

One such community entity was Saint Agatha Church, which decided to commit to a summer youth program model that sought to train participants to become certified Citizen Journalists. The program was an intensive seven-week class that challenged students who indicated they had an interest in writing and could foresee a career  in journalism. The trainees had to commit to attending on a regular basis, participate every day, learn and complete homework, and be willing to engage in a rigorous boot-camp-like, mentally challenging writing enterprise.

ChicagoIn the beginning, the lead teachers, Mr. DiMarkco Chandler, Ms. Cathy Milne, and myself wanted to train and inspire approximately ten youth to become Citizen Journalists.

The program design directed them to write and report on stories that covered positive and productive content about the Black and Brown communities where they resided.

The thought of our youth learning to frame the narratives describing positive and productive people and programs in Chicago’s North Lawndale, Roseland and Englewood communities is both refreshing and needed to combat the violence and terror that media highlight daily.

To our pleasant delight, five young people will be graduating from the program on Sunday, August 21, 2016. The graduation ceremony will begin at 10 a.m at Saint Agatha Church, 3147 West Douglas Boulevard.

These five young people are already using their Citizen Journalist Certification writing articles for an online newspaper entitled, The Public Slate. Additionally, they are primed to begin writing for Guardian Liberty Voice, and more importantly, Windy City Highlights, a print magazine designed, written, and edited by the students.

I am quite proud to say that the program at Saint Agatha’s was an incredible display of organization and visionary leadership. Father Larry Dowling, Jeannette Phillips; a mother who volunteered every day, and instructors worked tirelessly to guide and direct the young people to use the English language correctly to enhance their written communication. Also, essential to the success of the program was a Resource Development Specialist who kept potential bureaucracy from stifling the results.

The English language is under technological attack and our Black, and Brown young people are becoming its victims and are failing miserably in their abilities to read, write, and comprehend. Through this program, I witnessed growth in all five of the students. In fact, it was an exceptional improvement and far superior to what I imagined would be possible.

The News School’s Save the English Language summer program was a proof-of-concept project. The model affirms our young people can learn and are motivated to tell positive and heartwarming stories, as opposed to the heartbreaking screams and violent videos that inundate social media platforms.

The fire, enthusiasm, and energy that I witnessed as they were given assignments to cover, like the grand opening of the play “From the Barrio to the Boardroom,” the life story of author and businessman Robert Renteria, assures me we can and must hold our young people to higher expectations. The two Citizen Journalists who were interviewing and writing reviews of the play were as much a part of the story that night as the 30 plus youth who acted in the play.

I am letting everyone know that The News School is a successful, unique, outside-of-the-box program with the tools that engage youth in reading and writing and the art of communication. The education team is dedicated to Saving the English Language. The instructors encourage every person who has the desire to pursue journalism as a potential career to consider becoming part of the growing cadre of citizen journalists.

Important to note is once a person graduates from The News School Boot-Camp they will have developed skills that will open many doors in related industries and career opportunities.

For further information about the program in Chicago contact me, James Cannon at  (312)806-6617, or Father Larry Dowling at (773)522-1354.

Opinion by James Cannon
Edited by The News School

Images Courtesy of Griselda Vicario – Used With Permission

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