April 2018 … Beth Devine wasn’t sure what to expect before her interview with a group of fourth grade student reporters, but she was impressed from the start. One staffer from the Cole Manor Healthy Comet had been chosen by his peers to ask the first question. “I thought to myself, ‘He practiced that in the mirror,’” she said. “He had memorized it and he did exactly what he was asked to do in the moment.”
Ms. Devine was selected as a health leader for the seventh Healthy NewsWorks book, Leading Healthy Change in Our Communities 2018, because of her work connecting under-resourced communities with high-quality sport-based development programs.
Ms. Devine, executive director of the Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative, spoke of the group’s work with 30 youth sports organizations serving 15,000 to 20,000 kids ranging from kindergarten age to high schoolers. The organizations not only offer sports but also a range of other meaningful programs, from homework help to leadership skills development, she told the student reporters.
“Kids get a bad rap sometimes,” Ms. Devine said later when asked about the Cole Manor interview. Common perceptions include that kids are preoccupied with social media, have trouble focusing, or simply don’t ask questions. “But this experience painted a very different picture,” she said. During the interview, the student reporters “were prepared and focused on the task at hand. That’s a testament to the program, the instructors, and the teachers.”
She found it a hopeful moment. “When you have youth looking into things through a method such as journalism,” she said, “they’re going to understand that they are allowed to question and dig for answers.”
Talking to the student reporters also reminded her of how much she enjoys interacting directly with children, something her role as an executive director allows less time for. She said it made her want to get more involved with children as a volunteer.
The Healthy NewsWorks book, including the Cole Manor student reporters’ article about Ms. Devine, will be published in May. A book-signing celebration is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, at the Merion Tribute House, 625 Hazelhurst Ave, Merion Station, PA 19066.
—By Nora Dell