"It is easier to build a strong child than to repair a broken man." - Frederick Douglass

The News School in Review

The News School (TNS) or TheNewsSchool.com was founded in November 2015 by Christine Houston and DiMarkco Chandler. Since its inception, its primary purpose has been to provide a boldly inclusive training platform for youth and adults in the practice of news reporting.

In early July 2016, TNS launched its first summer bootcamp journalism program with the assistance of Father Larry Dowling of St. Agatha Catholic Church and Job Developer James Cannon of Phalanx Family Services at the Winslow Redmond Community Technology Center. The two men, working in collaboration with The News School founders, were able to integrate the journalism curriculum with the city’s annual on-the-job training program “One Summer Chicago.” Taking the lead role, Mr. Cannon recruited 12 youth, primarily from the North Lawndale community of Chicago, and employed them through Phalanx.  

For many of the 12 participating youth, the program seemed quite challenging as there were not only daily reading and writing assignments, but participants also had to learn how to use proprietary software and AP style rules. However, the ground rules, deliverables, and expected outcomes were clarified early in the process. For instance, participants were informed that if they passed the rigorous boot camp-like process, they would receive an authentic press pass, graduation certificate of completion, a byline in the publication Windy City Highlights and recognition at a graduation celebration ceremony. After six weeks, five of 12 graduation candidates qualified to receive the honors and were appropriately named investigative journalists.  

Since its founding, TNS has become inextricably attached to the St. Agatha Catholic Church. Officially, it is called The News School. However, it is actually The St. Agatha News School as it is fully supported by the Church and its members. In its first five years, it has graduated more than 60 youth and young adults. 

This year, TNS boasts a graduating class of more than 20 young men and women. The program will issue a record 20 press passes to the largest graduating class of its brief history. But what sets it apart from all the other rite-of-passage celebrations is that this year, former NBC Anchor/Reporter Art Norman will preside over the graduation ceremony as he is elated that several graduates will become members of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). 

It is important to note that in recent years, TNS has expanded its news reporting opportunities to include broadcast media. The addition has led to a collaborating partnership with a new television network called YouTV1. The combination of both TNS and YouTV1 has increased participation in the program, which is perhaps why The St Agatha News School’s 6th graduating class has quadrupled. 

For those that don’t know, the TNS mission is based upon a philosophy titled “Boldly Inclusive,” which embraces the concept that all voices, regardless of economic means, educational level, political leanings, gender, race, or any other defining characteristic, must be invited to participate in the global conversation.

In order to equip young people with the necessary communication skills to meet this purpose, TNS provides journalism candidates with a viable publishing platform where the free exchange of ideas, news, and information is strongly supported, encouraged, and practiced.

TNS guides writers through a uniquely transformative process that illuminates, simplifies, and intelligently connects rules that govern the art of written communication. The curriculum arranges and frames grammar and punctuation rules in a friendly and arguably easier, more interesting format as compared to traditional writing courses.

Program participants begin with short writing assignments as candidates learn to organize and edit their words and thoughts.

Upon attending community events, they learn to interview and write detailed articles based on the information they gather.

Perhaps the key to success is the student’s ability to learn by doing. Their written assignments are published online with pride and a sense of accomplishment that feeds their thirst for learning. Those who obtain the program’s certificate of completion go on to publish a print magazine that is entirely written, edited, and designed by the graduates.

The quarterly magazine is distributed in the community, adding a sense of self-achievement and a taste of success.

As a result of the program’s 2021 accomplishments, participants have launched a monthly broadsheet newspaper. Though its success depends on the financial support of a small number of donors, TNS is convinced that having a local print newspaper serving Lawndale youth and adults will go a long way in its efforts towards sustainability. The effort includes a series of fundraisers, grants, and partnerships. 

Furthermore, TNS has a GoFundMe campaign to address the need for additional funding. To assist The St Agatha News School with this fundraising endeavor, please click the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/st-agatha-news-school-6th-annual-graduation

Please help reward the graduates’ hard work and dedication to not only better themselves but also provide a purpose-filled path their peers can follow and build upon.

“Unlike other news outlets, TNS makes it Do What it Do while others make it Do What it Don’t.”                                                                                                                                                 – James Cannon. 

Written by DiMarkco Chandler  

Images Courtesy of Gricelda Chandler – Used With Permission

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