Young people from low-income communities learn how to be journalists through the Urban Youth International Journalism Program. Classes taught by professional journalists are held in schools, churches, community centers and other host facilities on the South and West sides.
Several graduates of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program are now working journalists who are shaking up the media world from within. Others are carpenters, medical students and domestic violence counselors. All of the program graduates report that their writing and communications skills are stronger, and that they can negotiate better with their teachers, bosses and colleagues. In terms of media, UYIJP graduates are challenging mainstream reporters who use stereotypes of low-income families. UYIJP grads know how to write a letter to the editor, give praise to reporters who deserve it, and dish out critique to those that need it.
The Urban Youth International Journalism Program’s instructors include reporters for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Journal. We The People Media staff recruits students between the ages of 12 and 20 at all levels of academic achievement, including top students at area high schools as well as wards of the state, former drop-outs and juvenile offenders. The program has partnered with the South Shore School of Leadership, Robeson High School, Ujima, a non-profit organization founded by former tenants of the Ida B. Wells community, and People for Community Recovery, a non-profit founded by residents of the Altgeld Gardens public housing development.
Many programs for inner-city youths burden low-income families with transportation expenses or other costs. The Urban Youth International Journalism Program offers the youths opportunities to earn money as freelance writers, providing their families with badly needed income while removing an obstacle to participation. Graduates of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program’s 8-week, J-101 course are eligible to submit articles to Residents’ Journal and be paid at standard freelance rates. Students can continue their studies in J-201, where they use new technology.
Founded in 1998, the Urban Youth International Journalism Program realized the dreams of Residents’ Journal’s adult staff to incubate a new generation of resident journalists.
With special funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Urban Youth International Journalism Program conducted several domestic and international fact-finding missions to underscore the youths’ training curriculum. In 1998 and 1999, youth participants and their instructors traveled to Washington, D.C., where they met and interviewed high-level government officials, including U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, Presidential spokesperson Mike McCurry, and other dignitaries. In summer 1998, 16 youths traveled to Ghana and Israel on a journey in which they met and interviewed journalists, community leaders and government officials. After each journey, the youths wrote articles about their experiences to the readerships of Residents’ Journal, where their articles provided critical information on the function of government and the role of the media.