Eighty high school students last week immersed themselves in the final stages of a project that not only gave them a look at professional journalism, but also taught them how to work with students of different backgrounds. As they proofread and typed final corrections, they talked excitedly about their soon-to-be published magazine Collaboration, which they have been working on at the Lemuel Penn Center in Northeast Washington.
The students were wrapping up a semester in a journalism program sponsored under the Metro Urban Studies Project, a coalition of public school systems in the metropolitan Washington area. The extracurricular program, started last year by the Lemuel Penn Center, a D.C. public school career center, brings together black, white, Oriental, suburban and inner-city students from the District and Prince George's, Montgomery and Arlington counties, and acquaints them with journalism and one another.
Natasha Holmes, 18, a senior at H. D. Woodson High School who wrote magazine articles during the program, says, "We've learned to meet deadlines, make contacts and depend on one another to get things done." Holmes says that by working with such a diverse group of students, "I've learned that students from Virginia and Maryland see D.C. differently from the way we (D.C. students) see it. A lot of them fear the city and they think they're better than us. But I've also learned that they can be very friendly.
"Some of them are much more aggressive in classroom settings than D.C. students," Holmes says. "Maybe their teachers drill it into them to take charge. D.C. teachers don't put enough emphasis on verbalizing ideas and articulation."
Eliza Buck, 16, a sophomore at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington who worked closely with Holmes, says, "Natasha is the first black female I've ever been able to talk to at any length. At my school, the blacks and the whites don't relate that much. Each group stays to themselves."
David Aaronson, a creative writing instructor at the Penn Center says, "There is very little communication between students at public schools in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. So the prime requirement was that (the students in the project) interact and come up with stories that would be applicable to all regions. The project is unique in that the students act as a voice for students in all regions." Collaboration magazine will be distributed to each public school in the area, and several of the students' videotape productions will be made available to local public television stations.
Cherie Woods, 16, a junior at the School Without Walls in D.C., worked on the production of "Neighborhoods," a videotape feature on the Adams-Morgan area. "This experience let me know that I would enjoy a career in the media," she said. "I like working with people and covering different topics."
In late January, a team of 10 teachers from the four areas led the students on a visit to a major Washington newspaper. Afterward, the teachers drilled students on the rudiments of interviewing, reporting and researching, then sent them on assignments to cover topics ranging from the lives of local rock bands to teen-age alcoholism.
The one-semester project, which costs $10,000 and is funded by different sources each year, was cosponsored this year by the George Preston Marshall Foundation, the Washington Star, the C&P Telephone Co. and the Lucas-Spindletop Foundation.