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Two University Scholars exemplify Northeastern’s commitment to community service. One of the requirements for the University Scholar program at Northeastern is to perform 100 hours of community service. Journalism junior, Aneri Pattani decided to use his journalism education to start a newspaper club for high school students. She worked with a couple of fellow University Scholar juniors, Allison Traylor, Political Science, and Prasanna Rajasekaran, Economics, to create the Huskies for Journalism Project to establish a newspaper club at a Boston Public High School. In an email, Pattani said, We wanted to “…help students develop interpersonal skills and a sense of confidence through the process of interviewing and writing.”

The team established the program at the West Roxbury Academy, a Boston Public high school, and the club published the high school’s first ever newspaper last November.

In deciding to undertake this ambitious project, Pattani explained in the project proposal that an schools have increased curriculum expectations and decreased funding for extracurricular activities. As a result the proposal notes, “…many journalism programs and publcations have been cut. Beyond statistics, journalism programs help provide a plethora of skills to students from writing and editing to interviewing and networking.”

Pattani answers a few questions about their experiences with the project.

Q: Are you still working with the students?

Since we started the project in September, we have continued our work with the students throughout the academic year. They recently published the second issue of the newspaper in February, and are now beginning to work on a third issue that is slated to come out in April.

Q: How many students were involved?

The number of students involved in the club fluctuates week-to-week. Sometimes we’ll have 20 students, other times it is only five. I’d say we have a core group of 10 students that attend regularly.

Q: What was it like going from a student role to a teacher? Any frustrations? Successes?

It has been challenging to adopt the role of a teacher, especially since Allison, Prasanna, and I are only a few years older than these high school students. It is easier for us to relate to the student position than a teacher’s. While this has helped us connect with students, it has also made it challenging for us to manage the classroom sometimes. We’re still trying to find the balance between mentor who wants to run a fun club and editors who are trying to get articles written and published.

Q: Do you think you discovered any budding journalists?

I certainly hope some of students are inspired to become journalists or at least gain some respect for the profession. However, what I think I’ve seen more of are budding politicians or activists. Several students in the club are excited to write about political issues and have their voices heard. They interviewed Mayor Marty Walsh for the last issue, and wrote passionate editorials speaking against cuts to the education budget.

Q: What feedback did you get from high school administrators and teachers?

So far we’ve received really positive feedback. The administrators and teachers have really enjoyed the printed product, and they’ve also been very supportive of the process. Many English teachers have encouraged their students to contribute to the newspaper. The headmaster participates in a Q&A article for each issue.

Q: What feedback did you get from students?

In the first few weeks of the program, we went into WRA with slideshows and formal lesson plans. We thought we would handle this club as a newspaper class. We soon got feedback from students that made us rethink this strategy. They wanted a collaborative, enjoyable club experience; not another class at the end of the school day. As such, we started teaching by doing. Instead of having a lesson on interviewing techniques. We asked them who they would want to interview and had them practice it with one another. In this way, feedback from the students has helped shape the program.

Q: Do you think the program will continue?

We really want the program to continue into the future. We are currently working with teachers and administrators at WRA to find funding that will ensure the program’s survival. We are also hoping to teach students editing and layout skills that will allow them to take even more control over the newspaper production process.

Q: What did you personally take away from this venture?

My favorite moment in the program so far was when a student called a local restaurant, asked for the owner, and set up a time for an in-person interview. It may seem like a small thing, but this student had been very shy and reluctant to speak with someone on the phone. He found it intimidating to try to meet with the owner. So we worked together to prepare. We talked about what type of questions he’d like to ask. We wrote out a script of what he would say on the phone. Within the course of an hour, he felt confident enough to call the restaurant and schedule the interview himself. Seeing that progress was amazing. Even better was the fact that he was so proud of himself for accomplishing that task. He went around “high-fiving” friends in the club. It’s the value of moments like those that I will take away from this venture.

The newsroom at West Roxbury Academy.