Jim Hawkes teaches english at the Salt Lake Wasatch Youth Center. In 2014 his class began a newspaper for the facility that is run by the students. Since then, they have published 15 papers.
“My primary responsibilities are to facilitate assignments and help with editing. The emphasis from the beginning is to make this a student newspaper. My contributions are meager with the students taking most of the responsibility. Their goals are to complete tasks, recognize and acknowledge their audience, and write with a purpose, usually to inform, challenge, and entertain. The articles have included interviews, facility news, advice columns, poems, mini-memoirs, and news from outside the facility. The students are creating a video version of their articles, and these will be collected in a new program for the facility.”
“It has been enlightening to see the difference in engagement with writing they consider meaningful. Rarely do the conventional assignments from class reach this level of effort. Before we put a paper “to bed,” the students edit their stories with the help of their peers. While the story being edited appears on the white board, the writer reads it aloud to the other journalists. All the students are expected to provide suggestions regarding spelling, grammar, syntax, and content. This feedback session has been rewarding for me. I see the students use the skills gained in their regular English classes. The suggestions are almost always accepted, with a solid rationale by the writer the only exception. Sometimes this leads to a heated but respectful debate.”
“Finally, the newspaper has helped to reinforce academic skills, but, more importantly, it has helped to develop soft skills such as cooperation and initiative that will generalize to the workplace and family relationships. Students who have left Wasatch send us essays for the newspaper detailing their successes on the outside that help to encourage students in the facility and reinforce the particular voice that these student journalists are developing.”