SMPA gives grant to mentor DC high school students

Journalism students will look to foster interest in the media among D.C. high school students as part of a grant program run by the School of Media and Public Affairs.

The $150,000 grant, which was awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation this summer, is funding Prime Movers, which pairs

college and professional journalists with high school students.

About 400 high school students will participate in Prime Movers. But the initiative seeks to have a much broader impact by encouraging students to create high school newspapers, said Dorothy Gilliam, the SMPA’s Maurice C. Shapiro professor and the program’s director.

Professional journalists participating in the program include Sam Ford and Peggy Gilgannon of WJLA, the local ABC affiliate; Jonathan Blakley and Doug Mitchell of National Public Radio; and Kim Willis of USA Today.

As of now, Prime Movers is intended to be a pilot program that may continue if its first year is successful. The one-year initiative also plans to ease the transition of minority journalists into local newsrooms and begin journalism programs at high schools.

“The Prime Movers program is a unique partnership between SMPA, the Knight Foundation, major news organizations and area high schools,” Gilliam said in a GW press release. “This cooperation will bring media education and training opportunities to students who may not otherwise have them, and it will serve the ultimate goal of increasing diversity in the newsroom.”

Gilliam is not only the program’s director but was also responsible for forming a relationship between the Knight Foundation and the SMPA. The Knight Foundation is a joint philanthropic organization run by Knight Ridder and various community groups.

“I wanted to start a program that connected news media with high schools,” she said in an interview with The Hatchet. “I contacted Knight and, with George Washington, it was a combined effort that we’re very excited about.”

A retired Washington Post columnist, Gilliam has previously received a Knight Foundation grant. While working at the Post, she received funding to publish Reaching Generation Next, a handbook for creating partnerships between news organizations and high schools.

“We would want to have more schools involved,” said Gilliam, who pointed out that the program is only a one-year pilot involving Roosevelt, Ballou, J.E.B. Stuart and Mount Vernon high schools. “But we’re optimistic. We’ve all ready received calls from parents in the area who had heard about it and are interested.”

GW students that will participate in the Prime Movers were chosen through an application process coordinated by Mark Feldstein, who chairs the journalism department. The SMPA students selected to mentor D.C. high school students for the 2004-05 year are Jody Elliot, Claritza Jiminez, Shaina Jones, Sarah Lovenheim, Andrea Mandell, Anthony Moniello, Wangui Njuguna, Samantha Panda and Jessica Smith.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.