GW students and professional journalists have been educating the next generation of writers and reporters in District public high schools for years, and now the program that facilitates this interaction is set to expand to Philadelphia.
Faculty in the School of Media and Public Affairs established Prime Movers by modeling the Washington Post’s Young Journalist Development Program. Expanding Prime Movers to Philadelphia nearly doubles the number of high schools that offer journalism programs in the city.
“Part of the reason Philadelphia was chosen as the expansion city was the little journalism seen in the city’s high schools,” said Dorothy Gilliam, director of Prime Movers in Washington and a research assistant in the School of Media and Public Affairs. “It’s the fourth-largest school system in the country, but out of 59 high schools only 26 had some type of journalism program”
The John S. and James Knight Foundation gave the School District of Philadelphia and Prime Movers a $500,000 grant to fund the expansion. The Knight Foundation has funded Prime Movers in D.C. every year since its inception in 2004, except this past year.
Gilliam said, “One of our goals is to increase diversity. Most newsrooms lack racial and ethnic diversity.”
After conducting a pilot program at six Philadelphia schools, Prime Movers expanded to 18 more high schools in October.
“Some may be our future journalists, but even for the ones who won’t be, I hope they become more aware of their freedoms and civic affairs,” said Acel Moore, director for Prime Movers/Philadelphia and associate editor emeritus of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Across the country schools have abandoned civics. This is a positive endeavor, bringing enthusiasm (about journalism) to students.”
Moore said at each of the 24 participating Philadelphia schools, interns from Temple University and professional journalists from outlets such as The Philadelphia Inquirer and KYW will assist teacher advisers in developing after-school media programs, including newspaper, radio and television.
This semester GW sent four interns to schools around the District as part of Prime Movers. Freshman Colby Anderson, a political communication major, interns at Roosevelt High School and works with NPR journalist Felix Contreras to build up the high school’s student media. One story they worked on was about a student with cerebral palsy who had trouble traveling around school.
“They (the students) went from being apathetic to really interested,” Anderson said. “The class has come together as a group. They’ve become excited about school.”
Senior Karina Marinha, a journalism major, interns at Ballou High School where she assists with the television broadcast class. Marinha helps Ballou HS teacher J.D. DiMattio with his class that combines broadcast journalism with reading, writing and diction proficiency.
“It’s a real benefit to me to have professionals and interns assist in my lesson plans.” DiMattio said, “When more people tell you something it becomes a reality.”
DiMattio has worked with Prime Movers in D.C. for four years. When the program first began at Ballou, the school had a half-completed studio and a classroom without computers. Through the efforts of this collaboration, DiMattio and Prime Movers were able to convince the school system to finish the job.
He said, “It all relies on consistency . Basically, it’s a mathematical equation. You need people with passion and knowledge to help students get everything they possibly can.”