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First JEA Diversity Award honors staff at Davenport Central High School

The Journalism Education Association will honor the Blackhawk newspaper staff of Davenport (Iowa) Central High School with its first Diversity Award on April 14 at the spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Denver.

JEA’s Diversity Award honors a scholastic journalism teacher, student media adviser or scholastic journalism group demonstrating a commitment to cultural awareness and encouraging a multicultural approach with its student media staff, media production and/or community. The honoree must be in the forefront in promoting diversity in the scholastic media arena and must have taken steps to break down walls of misunderstanding and ignorance.

Nominated by Adviser Deb Buttleman Malcolm, the Blackhawk newspaper staff began its full diversity approach in 1996 when students on the staff invented the All Cultural Achievement Plan (ACAP). Literacy-based recruiting and putting all students on an equal playing field encouraged dignity and respect with diverse writing within the paper. This won the staff the JEA Student Journalist Impact Award in 1997.

In 1997 and 1998, “Voices in the Hall” began with columns from students both ethnically and culturally diverse. By the end of the 1990s, the group was publishing on the Web and printing in seven languages.

With the changes beginning in eligibility requirements and the publishing of the book Journalism Kids Do Better (1994) by Jack Dvorak, Larry Lain, and Tom Dickson, the students decided to reach out to elementary and middle school students during Scholastic Journalism Week with scholastic journalism workshops. Concentration was on diverse low socio-economic students who were brought to the school to learn about journalism opportunities. The project expanded and with the help of the University of Iowa Opportunity at Iowa, IHSPA and Quill and Scroll, students have operated a Journalism All Cultural Achievement Academy for eight consecutive years. The project is free to third to ninth grade students and helps create early friendships.

This activity won the JEA/NEA Student Literacy Award and was noted in “Applying NCTE/IRA Standards in Classroom Journalism Projects.”

Results are now in on the first graduating class from the Academy. All students who stayed with the journalism program thru high school received college scholarships. Many students from this program went on to major in journalism in college, become editors at newspapers, become bilingual writers in their own communities and won various awards for their achievements in writing.

The Blackhawk staff started a journalism sister school project in 1998. Students have exchanged schools serving as international correspondents since 2000. In 2006 the staff completed its third large group exchange and produced a bilingual newspaper with international software and podcast on the road in another country.

“The Blackhawk staff has learned to care about each other. They are a great example of what diversity working together can do,” said Tim Wernentin, principal, Davenport Central High School.

Barbara Riley, head counselor, Davenport Central High School said, “Over the years I have counseled numerous students who have benefited from their involvement on the Blackhawk staff, through contributions that increased self esteem, or simply by reading the articles… Students volunteer time and effort to help young children understand the importance of school.”

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