The Journalism Education Association has named Elle Perry and The Teen Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, its 2015 Diversity Award winner. The award will be presented April 18 at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Denver.
The Teen Appeal began in 1997, when the Scripps Howard Foundation, the University of Memphis Department of Journalism, Memphis City Schools and the Commercial Appeal partnered to create a monthly citywide high school newspaper program with the mission to recruit minorities into newsrooms across the nation by introducing them to journalism while in high school.
The Teen Appeal’s mission of diversity and cultural awareness starts with a weeklong summer camp at the University of Memphis and carries into each monthly issue. The Teen Appeal’s staff of 100-plus students comes from more than 20 schools in Shelby County, most of which do not have a student newspaper or broadcast capability.
Students come from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds across the county. Striving to include students from many schools in each issue, the staff has written on a variety of topics, such as the immigration experience, homelessness and inner city programs dedicated to creative pursuits.
Working on the Teen Appeal gives students across the county from various cultures, family structures and socio-economic backgrounds a way to get to know each other, often sparking lifelong friendships among those who might never have met.
Elle Perry became The Teen Appeal coordinator in 2012. A graduate of the Meeman School of Journalism at the University of Memphis, she worked as a daily newspaper reporter at The Paducah (Kentucky) Sun and currently works as a freelance journalist. In 2013, she was named one of The Memphis Flyer’s Top 20 Under 30.
“For Teen Appeal students who will someday work in media careers, or those who decide to go into other careers, the program has made an indelible imprint of their lives. Every year, the Teen Appeal receives college graduation cards from students who were once Teen Appeal high school staffers,” wrote Lurene Kelly, special assistant of organizational communication for the Shelby County Public Defender.
JEA is the largest national association of scholastic journalism teachers and student media advisers in the United States.