When children in Sierra Leone learn about handwashing and the Ebola virus, it will be thanks, in part, to Independence Mission Schools’ student journalists halfway around the world.
Two new videos starring the St. Veronica and St. Martin de Porres Healthy NewsWorks teams debuted in March to 100 primary school students as part of a clean water project led by KidsGive, a scholarship program sponsored by Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis. The project will bring clean water for the first time to the Conforti Primary School in Calaba Town, Freetown. IMS students at SMDP and St. Veronica worked with students from Lawrence University to produce the videos.
The IMS school news teams are part of a hands-on learning experience coordinated by Healthy NewsWorks, a Philadelphia-area nonprofit program that encourages budding reporters to “transform the health of their communities” by reporting and writing on health issues. The concept is the brainchild of founders Marian Uhlman and elementary school teacher Susan Spencer who shared an idea that they could engage students and guide them to make healthy choices through journalism.
Uhlman, a reporter and Pulitzer Prize finalist with 30 years of experience, wrote for publications in Alabama and New Mexico before landing at The Philadelphia Inquirer reporting on health topics. She works with students to teach them reporting, writing and editing skills that will help them anytime they sit down to write.
“What we try to do for these kids is to show them the process, which is hard work,” she explains. But all that hard work will pay off in the future, she believes, when they are asked to write by a teacher or boss.
The Healthy NewsWorks program has been a great success at SMDP and St. Veronica and will expand in at least one additional IMS school next year with plans for more. This is great news for Uhlman, whose passion is to help these student journalists not only learn the ropes of reporting, but also to help teach the students confidence.
“To be a good writer you have to have confidence,” Uhlman says. “What means the most to me is when [the students] say that they have more confidence.”
See for yourself; watch these very confident news teams at St. Veronica and St. Martin de Porres at HealthyNewsworks.org.