Central High School's Scholastic Journalism Week (SJW) is an imaginative program that began in 1995, thanks to the vision of Central's preeminent journalism teacher, Deb Buttleman Malcom, and her dedicated students. According to Buttleman Malcom, "The goal was to increase diverse voices within the school community, targeting diversity and promoting literacy by offering an outlet for free expression of concerns. Many state and national awards followed for the group's efforts in multi-culturalism and student impact."

By 1999, the program was reaching out to elementary and middle schools, creating a young-writers-workshop summer academy that employed a "cross-curricular journalistic approach," Buttleman Malcom explained. "That same year increased global awareness became part of the program. High-school students developed and began to participate in an International Journalism Exchange with South America. Over the next three years students have written grants and found business partners to expand multi-lingual opportunities for individuals, the [school] publication, and their academy project, with the students winning numerous individual awards for journalism excellence in the process."

Part of the mission of SJW is to expose younger students to the various aspects of journalism. T.J. Pearson, a seventh grader at Sudlow Junior High, has been participating in Scholastic Journalism Week from the beginning, and was recently published in the National Council of Teachers in Education, along with his Central journalism mentors, Mariah Cunnick and Manuel Garcia, who also have statements in the educational-standards book regarding journalism in education. T.J.'s accomplishment exemplifies what the program is all about. SJW also gives the older students a chance not only to mentor younger students interested in writing and journalism, but also to organize and experience hands-on management of an event that involves community outreach. "The journalism students become masters at what they do because the best way to learn something is to teach it to others," emphasized Buttleman Malcom.

This year's event was held the week of February 18. Excerpts from a piece written by journalism student Manuel Garcia explain the 2002 goals: "Using journalism as a literacy tool, Scholastic Journalism Week lectures at Central High School were designed to challenge the students as part of Black History Month to become the CEO of themselves, and through exposure to the activities, sign up for foreign-language curriculum. The project promoted global literacy as journalism students worked with younger children to teach the importance of staying in school and working hard on academics. African-American students also taught a lesson in black history delivered in both Spanish and English."

Traditionally, Central has had between 10 and 12 middle and elementary schools participate in its annual journalism program. But with budget cuts ravaging schools' available funds for extracurricular activities, only two elementary schools - Lincoln and Jefferson - were able to attend this year. "The faculty has to make hard choices about what to spend the limited funds on," explained Buttleman Malcom. Mariah and Manuel raised money themselves to procure a bus for Jefferson to attend. (The average cost of one bus for the day is $100.). Lincoln students walked to this year's event.

As part of Scholastic Journalism Week, Central reaches out to the community for journalism professionals to partner with. The River Cities' Reader is pleased to participate with Central as Partners in Literacy.

This year's program included panelists from various media organizations, as well as Vanessa Shelton, director of the Iowa High School Press Association. Two of the panelists were Joe Plambeck and Cory Meier, who are graduates of Central and two of the founding students of Scholastic Journalism Week. Plambeck is editor-in-chief and Meier the opinions editor of the Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa's campus publication.

Central's journalism students, including seniors Cunnick, Garcia, Adam Zelsdorf, Jonathan Jarrell, and Noel Bieber, composed a series of questions for the panel that were thought-provoking and extremely relevant for media as an industry, such as "What role do readers and advertisers play in what you cover?" and "Are there any writing formulas that you feel are the most effective when calling a diverse crowd to action and why?" The questions reflected the students' concerns about the media's responsibility for critical issues such as diversity, public perception, influence, and journalistic integrity.

The participating audience consisted of journalism students from several high schools, as well as students from Sudlow and J.B. Young junior high schools and Lincoln and Jefferson elementary schools.

"We feel strongly about literacy because we recognize the importance of reading and writing and how it will impact students' futures," Mariah said. "The program [Scholastic Journalism Week and summer academy Young Writers Workshop] is designed to make literacy important at a young age. We try to show the students what they can do to become involved."

This year's program included several writing contests for the junior-high and elementary kids that gave them a chance to express themselves on various levels. The first two contests involved writing an essay based on the themes "Diversity's Meaning" in honor of Black History Month, and "How Freedom Rings in Your School" commemorating Central High School's distinction as a First Amendment School. The essays were reviewed by Central's journalism class, which picked three winners of "Diversity" and 13 finalists for "Freedom Rings" for publication in a special edition of Caught Our Eye: Young Journalist Workshop. This way, students can see what their peers wrote in a comprehensive format that is shared among the schools.

From the 13 "Freedom Rings" finalists, the guest panelists that participated in the Scholastic Journalism workshops culled three winners, who received prizes for their efforts along with the others. The first, second, and third place winners for "Diversity's Meaning" were Sonia Villapando (J.B. Young); Dejarvae Thorpe (Jefferson); and Jazmin Fountain (J.B. Young), respectively. The "How Freedom Rings in Your School" winners include Maggie Forsyth for Freedom is Everywhere (Lincoln); Monica Mejia for Freedom of Education (Jefferson); and Darcy Clark for Freedom Means Sharing (Lincoln). We present the winning essays here unedited:

"Diversity's Meaning"

Sonia Villapando (1st Place, J.B. Young)
Diversity means being different in looks and thoughts. It also means being the same in needs and feelings. Diversity is something special because we are all special, but still have stuff in common.

Dejarvae Thorpe (2nd Place, Jefferson Elementary)
Diversity is differences in people. People are alike then they are different, others speak different languages. But either way it goes we still stand together.

Jazmin Fountain (3rd Place, J.B. Young)
To me, diversity means many things. You could be a different ethnicity from someone, or maybe even speak a different language. Diversity is also having your own personality, goals, or talents. There is no one in the world like me or you, we are all different.

"How Freedom Rings in Your School"

Freedom is Everywhere, by Maggie Forsyth (Lincoln Elementary)
Freedom is all around us but here in my school it is different. We wear dress code so we don't get to wear what we want but we are free to pick out what kind of shoes we wear. We have the freedom to express ourselves in writing. Everybody has the freedom of speech. We have the freedom to choose what we want to do with our free time. We have the freedom to choose what books we want to read. Freedom is all we have to express ourselves. That is how freedom rings in our school.

Freedom of Education by Monica Mejia (Jefferson Elementary)
The United States of America has lots of freedom because if I lived in Afghanistan I wouldn't know anything. We have liberty to go to school and get an education. We can go to college and study what we want to be and have our own life. We are not told whether or not to learn or if we even can. If we don't get accepted to a college or school we apply to another one.

In other countries kids do not get to express themselves. They cannot go to school and they do not get a chance to know anything.

Freedom Means Sharing by Darcy Clark (Lincoln Elementary)
A lot of people get along. There isn't a lot of fighting. Whatever somebody does, they do it, too. They make everything fair. There is nobody left out. People are all treated equally. We all get along. Even if you don't like somebody you still talk to each other. We all love each other. We hardly ever fight. If someone falls, we help them if we can. If someone needs to use a pencil or paper we let them. We help people out if they need it. I think my school is good at sharing and helping people.

The second contest was an exercise in observation and listening. Each panelist was given a question to answer. The kids were asked to take notes during the answers, then write a short summary report based on one of four themes: "explain what we learn form Scholastic Journalism Week; persuade others to participate in Scholastic Journalism Week; express what you think is the most important skill when it comes to writing; or if funding were available in the community, what activities would you like to do and write about?" The students were directed to use their notes in writing their reports, using information from the question-and-answer session.

The panelists judged their submissions, and prizes and honorable mentions were given for the best reports. Junior-high winners included T.J. Pearson (Sudlow); Sonia Villapando (J.B. Young); and Jazmin Fountain (J.B. Young). Elementary winners were Allie Waterlander (Lincoln); Erin Friedrich (Lincoln); Monica Mejia (Jefferson); and Stephanie Flaherty (Lincoln).

"Explain, Persuade, Express, or Create"

T.J. Pearson (Sudlow Junior High)
At Scholastic Journalism Week I learned many new things from interesting people.

I learned some tips how to be a good writer from Joe Plambech. He says to be very, very ambitious, curious and good with people. Vanessa Shelton, head of Iowa Press Association, told us that as a child she loved reading and spelling. While in 11th grade she wrote "What's Happening" for her local newspaper. "I always wanted to be a news reporter, said Mrs. Shelton.

Overall I learned that in order to be a good journalist you need to have a deep love for journalism because it is not always fun.

Erin Friedrich (Lincoln Elementary)
Many people think journalism is just writing but I learned that journalism is photography, and many other things. And it is also much fun because there are so many things. As Cathleen McCarthy said "We are never at a loss for stories."

You must have a lot of ambition. "If you want to get published do what you have to do" are the words of Joe Plambech. "Be courteous, friendly and make sure you have a passion."

Monica Mejia (Jefferson Elementary)
This week I learned about journalism. I learned that we need leadership. If we didn't use leadership we wouldn't get many ideas. We also need ideas. If we don't get ideas from each other we wouldn't get anything done. I think journalism is very important to all of us because journalism is one way we can communicate.

Jazmin Fountain (J.B. Young Junior High)
To me journalism is a good thing to be involved in. You get to go a lot of places, and do a lot of things you might not have been able to do otherwise. While being a journalist you get to write and not only express your opinions about situations, but others also. I like that students and teachers at Central try to get other youth interested and involved. It would be nice if more people could come and be involved. I wouldn't mind coming again.

Sonia Villapando (J.B. Young Junior High); Honorable Mention
I don't know why I got chosen, but to me expressing is what you need to write a good story. You will also need ambition for picking a good story. In journalism you will need all the above answering questions like who, what, where, when, why. I think journalism is a very good way to express feelings and thoughts. You also have to focus about what they care about.

Allie Waterlander (Lincoln Elementary); Honorable Mention
If funding were available in the community, I would like to see people going to museums and learning and coming back and sharing the knowledge they have learned. People could go to places in the community so it would be less expensive, we could walk or take a bus. We could go places like on hikes or nature trails. We could learn about animals and plants in our world. I think the people should talk and learn from each other. They might learn things from people they might not know. It would be a good time for everyone to learn and to come together and grow.

Stephanie Flaherty (Lincoln Elementary); Honorable Mention
Why come to Journalism Week

1) Because we win prizes.

2) Because it is cool to learn about black history.

3) Because there are contests.

4) Because you get to meet new people.

5) And we get to learn new words and definitions.

6) Journalism is about writing. And I learned at journalism camp. Persuade means to encourage other people, so am encouraging you to come to journalism.

7) Because I learned how to get imbission.

Even though funding has been drastically cut, Central intends to continue with plans for this summer's journalism academy for grades three through eight. Pre-registration will begin in April for the Young Journalists Workshop to be held each morning in the Central library, June 6 through 15. The goal is to enroll 100 to 120 students for this summer's academy.

The journalism students are responsible for writing all the grants and securing all the funding for this program, so any donations or financial assistance from the public to aid in this effective writing workshop would be greatly appreciated. This summer's theme will be the arts, with a special focus on Davenport's River Renaissance project. The children will explore and write about all the different arts organizations and programs in the community.

Support the River Cities' Reader

Get 12 Reader issues mailed monthly for $48/year.

Old School Subscription for Your Support

Get the printed Reader edition mailed to you (or anyone you want) first-class for 12 months for $48.
$24 goes to postage and handling, $24 goes to keeping the doors open!

Click this link to Old School Subscribe now.

Help Keep the Reader Alive and Free Since '93!


"We're the River Cities' Reader, and we've kept the Quad Cities' only independently owned newspaper alive and free since 1993.

So please help the Reader keep going with your one-time, monthly, or annual support. With your financial support the Reader can continue providing uncensored, non-scripted, and independent journalism alongside the Quad Cities' area's most comprehensive cultural coverage." - Todd McGreevy, Publisher