National Volunteer Week: A student journalism club in Florida

National Volunteer Week is a time to recognize the time and effort that volunteers put into their service to better their communities. Report for America corps members volunteer their time on a service project, generally a student journalism or youth media project, to help teach media literacy and storytelling skills to the next generation.

We spoke with corps members across the country about their projects and what community service means to them.

Katie Hyson | WUFT News

 I launched a journalism club at the PACE Center for Girls in Alachua County, Florida. PACE is an alternative school for middle through high schoolers that combines education with counseling and life skills training. These students face many additional barriers to consistent school attendance and participation in extracurriculars. 

The same factors that make it challenging to start a club there, are the same reasons I wanted to try. I used to be a child like them. The trauma and challenges I faced outside of school made it really hard for me to do well in school. I didn’t discover journalism until my late 20s. I wish it had been sooner. It’s my joy to give them the chance to try it long before I did.

What does community service mean to you?

My beat is equity issues. It was important to me from the outset that I work for the communities I report on. I see the journalism club at PACE as an extension of this. Community service means locating the club at a center that serves the people whose stories I tell. In this case, it means empowering their children to tell the stories of their own neighborhoods.

Newsroom diversity is, in part, a pipeline issue. To serve the community as a journalist also means helping create accessible pipelines into journalism so that their local newsroom may one day reflect them better.

Being a journalist is an incredibly privileged and powerful position. Community service means passing on as much of that power and privilege as I can.

What feedback do you hear from students?

One student asked if she was allowed to write her feelings in a notebook [I provided]. On the cover of the notebook, she drew a colorful post. I asked her what it meant.

“Hope for the future,” she said. “You never know what the next five or 10 years might bring.”

How has working with young journalists changed the way you think about journalism?

 Their natural curiosity and imagination actually make them quite talented journalists from the get-go. They help me see with fresh eyes and ask questions I’ve never considered. They also help me view my community from a new perspective. These students in particular are experiencing many of the equity issues I report on firsthand, and it’s been invaluable to see Gainesville through their eyes.

Want to learn more about our corps members’ service projects? Read more profiles here and here

About Report for America

Report for America is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities. Launched in 2017, Report for America is creating a new, sustainable system that provides people with the information they need to improve their communities, hold powerful institutions accountable, and rebuild trust in the media. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.