Youth share their creativity and interests through print media

Much has been written on the ubiquitous nature of technology-based communication among today’s American teens. Joyce Strand, a youth worker on the West Side of St. Paul, pointed out that technology - beyond being used for communication - can give youth "an outlet to explore and vindicate their talents and interests."

This past school year, Joyce worked after school with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from St. Matthew’s School as part of the Neighborhood Learning Community’s efforts to create a culture of learning in the West Side of St. Paul.

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Joyce's focus was engaging young people in creating technology-based projects through video, audio, and print media that reflect their interests.

One of the pieces the St. Matthew's students created is a magazine called “The Teen Scene: Where Kids Go After-School." Pages from the magazine featured video games they liked (Medal of Honor and Guitar Hero), what happened in Homework Help or Technology Club, how to be a good dog owner, the process of making a video, and their ratings of TV shows and movies. Seventh grader Alexis Kramer explained "we are making all different things that we love and are putting them into a magazine."

Participation in a project of this type recognizes the capacities of young people to create something of value, not just for them, but also for their community. Each page took time to brainstorm, photograph, write, and create, and resulted in something tangible, reflective of themselves and their interests, to share with family and friends.

Involvement with the magazine also builds and enhances important public skills, including the ability to work collaboratively, compromise and lead. "Besides learning the process of making a magazine," Joyce pointed out, "they learned they had to work with each other." Indeed, many of the youth that worked on the project have chosen this summer to be part of the West Side Youth Guides, a program that engages middle school-aged youth as mentors of younger residents of the neighborhood.

"It's exciting to [watch] the growth of this group of young people as they begin to see themselves as leaders...on the West Side," Joyce concluded.

Joyce Strand is an AmeriCorps member at the Neighborhood Learning Community through C-TEP, the Community Technology Empowerment Project, which helps low-income youth and adults use technology to better access social, civic, educational and economic opportunities. Joyce carries out technology-based projects with youth in sites throughout the West Side. She worked on projects throughout the school year, and she will be returning for a second year in the fall.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs