Friday, September 14, 2012

Teens make sure their voices are heard with web-based journal, The Pulse

By Ed Stannard 
Community Engagement Editor

NEW HAVEN — A really exciting event in local journalism happened recently — exciting because of the new voices that are out there.

Now it’s time for the rest of us to hear.

High school journalism students from High School in the Community and James Hillhouse High School are combining efforts on the site, called The Pulse, at www.newhavenpulse.com. Their mission: to change the perception of New Haven teens by writing stories and columns about issues that are important to them. Other schools may join them soon, according to HSC teacher Matt Presser.

Journalism students at High School in the Community have launched The Pulse, a website by and for teens. Front row, from left, Laura Coppola, Leydi Taramillo, Shardai Portee and teacher Matt Presser. Second row, Cheyenne Rogers, Briana Heath, Tyshawn Lowery and Charnece Shabazz. (Peter Casolino/Register)
“I think that teenagers get a very bad rep in New Haven because of a lot of the drama that’s going on and I hope with this website that we can bring awareness that not all kids are like that and that we shouldn’t all be categorized as that,” said Laura Coppola, 17, of Hamden, an HSC student.

The website is already loaded with content, including opinion columns about the Hillhouse grade-tampering scandal, news about HSC’s new structure that eliminates ninth- through 12th-grade levels and even poetry.

“I think we’re really trying to change the dominant narrative about what it is to be a teenager here” in New Haven, said Presser. “Who better to tell that story than the people who are having that experience themselves?”

“The reason I joined journalism is to give black teens a voice because I feel like the generation now is not doing anything productive,” said Cheyenne Rogers, 17, of West Haven. “So to do these articles I feel like I’m showing black teens something different that they can do instead of going around here and hurting each other and committing crimes and everything.”

The website also helps connect students across the city. “It was cool to see my students get on (the website) today and see some of the stories the students at Hillhouse wrote,” Presser said.

One of our charges at the Register, through our Community Media Lab and in other ways, is to support the diverse voices of our community. We’ll be helping promote the students who publish The Pulse by linking to their stories from our website and having them shadow our reporters. We’re even planning to hold a news meeting at High School in the Community.

“I think the website shows the students’ ability, that they are beginning to understand journalism, and the site reflects their hard work and dedication,” said Shahid Abdul-Karim, the Register’s New Haven education reporter.

“I think our partnership will give them the opportunity to get the hands-on experience that they will need to further their education.”

I expect to learn as much from the teens as we can teach them. The students at High School in the Community are certainly ready to tell us what they think about the issues they face.

“They think because they’re adults that we think like they think … but our mindset is totally different,” said Briana Heath, 16, of New Haven.

“It’s a different time from when our parents were teenagers,” said Laura Coppola, 17, of Hamden.

Some of their issues are as serious as any an adult deals with. “I joined journalism to talk about teen pregnancy, because a lot of parents tell you not to have sex and to have protected sex but people still do it and teens are still not going to listen,” said Heath, who recommended “teen pregnancy classes and parenting classes inside the school.”

Tyshawn Lowery, 17, of New Haven is interested in looking into cyberbullying, which he called “a huge, huge problem. I’ve heard of lots of deaths due to cyberbullying, and it’s just wrong, because if you won’t say it to someone’s face, then why post it online?” Lowery also plans to post his poetry on the site.

Charnese Shabazz, 16, of New Haven, is looking closer to home. “I’m writing about how … pretty much everybody, but high school mostly, how they segregate themselves. Like if you go into our cafeteria right now you’d see the Hispanics at one table, the blacks at one table and then the whites in the corner but you just see different races categorized and I’m wondering why we just don’t mix it up and that’s what I’m writing about now.”

Through The Pulse, these students will make sure their voices are heard. And we at the Register plan to help amplify those voices to make sure they’re heard.

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