In just its fourth year, Medill Media Teens is getting primetime television coverage for helping Chicago youth.
On Tuesday, Jan. 21, the Big Ten Network (BTN) featured a segment about the program, which provides high school students from Chicago the opportunity to participate in journalism workshops in a downtown bureau. The segment aired following the Northwestern men’s basketball game against Purdue University in a show called BTN LiveB1G.
Medill Media Teens pairs high school students from the Greater Grand Crossing area on the South Side of Chicago with Medill undergraduates who volunteer to act as mentors. The goal of the program is to help the Chicago teens develop skills that will enable success in college or a vocational track.
“We want to support them in their professional careers, we want to support them as students and we want to help them as much as we can in their personal lives,” said program director and Medill Lecturer Sarahmaria Gomez. “To see these students go from knowing nothing about journalism to producing really quality pieces—it makes everybody feel so good,”
Medill Media Teens, started in 2010, instructs each class of students over the course of two years. Every participant from the program’s first graduating class of 11 students enrolled in college, according to Gomez. All Chicago Public Schools had a graduation rate of 65.4 percent in 2013.
Of that first class of Medill Media Teens, eight are currently attending four-year universities and half are studying journalism, communications or film. Notably, two students are studying at top-tier journalism programs at Syracuse University and the University of Missouri.
On Nov. 16, BTN sent a crew of four people to the Chicago bureau to film two segments on the program, which will air after and during basketball games and online this winter. The teens were filmed recording man-on-the-street interviews, asking passersby about Chicago Bulls basketball player Derrick Rose. Afterward, the teens returned to the bureau to edit their film and audio content.
Media Teens currently supports about 30 teens, with 40 Medill students rotating in and out as mentors, depending on their journalism residency or study abroad commitments. The students have access to laptops and film equipment in order to produce their content.
The program is a collaboration between Medill and the Gary Comer Youth on the South Side of Chicago. It was established as a way to provide teens from the area with the skills and support system necessary to enter a college education.
“There are so many things the teens get out of it, like seeing what a successful college student does, and all of the opportunities that they will have when they go to college,” said Gomez, who highlighted the relationship teens have with their mentors.
Gideon Resnick (BSJ15), one of the Medill mentors, was interviewed by BTN for the segment.
As a mentor in Media Teens, he said, “you have valuable things to contribute. Not just in terms of ‘here’s how you shoot a video,’ but more in terms of hanging out with people where you get to know them, and they get to know you in a very important way.” Resnick said he maintains a friendship with some of his mentees outside of the classroom.
Although the program requires the dedication of waking up early on Saturdays to travel to a newsroom and do extracurricular work, both the mentors and the teens pull it off diligently.
“We’re not in the business of creating journalists,” Gomez said. “We are very happy if they decide to go into journalism, but more importantly we want them to be successful in college and we want them to all go on to college. We want them to graduate and go on to do great things.”