January 2012…In 2010, Natalie Detwiler volunteered to help with Cole Manor Elementary School’s newspaper, the Healthy Comet, a Healthy NewsWorks program in Norristown Area School District. Two years later, she serves as the newspaper’s editor and faculty advisor after the retirement of the program’s previous director.
Although Ms. Detwiler never expected to take on the role of newspaper editor, she has embraced the opportunity and projects an unfettered admiration of the students she works with. “What makes the program successful is the dedication and level of responsibility shown by the students,” she says.
Ms. Detwiler says she learns as much as the children in their weekly sessions dedicated to interview preparation, writing, editing, and research. As the third and fourth graders have honed their journalism skills, Ms. Detwiler has gained a sincere appreciation of the “point of view of a journalist versus that of an everyday writer.”
For example, the student journalists must learn to look at a story from multiple angles and gather perspectives from numerous sources. In a recent series on the Cole Manor science fair, reporters interviewed judges, the school principal, teachers, and student participants to provide a comprehensive recap of the event.
They also held a press conference with Liz Scott, the mother of Alexandra “Alex” Scott, whose life and fundraising to support pediatric cancer research inspired the creation of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. The profile will appear in the Healthy NewsWorks book, Leading Healthy Change In Our Communities.
The numerous interviews, press conferences, and creative reporting undertaken by the Healthy Comet reporters illustrate the deep commitment students have to the program, says Ms. Detwiler. Selected through an application process, the reporters are involved in most aspects of the newspaper’s production and take their journalism responsibilities seriously.
“It is amazing to see students of this age who are able to write at this level,” she says. “They love, love, love writing and their enthusiasm is incredible.”
—By Beth Hodge, Healthy NewsWorks volunteer