Partner Project provides training at Gautier High School

Partner Project provides training at Gautier High School

Members of Gautier High School Media conduct a press conference as part of the first 2019 JEA Partner Project. Advisers Kyle Carter, CJE, Michelle Balmeo, MJE, and R.J. Morgan, CJE, worked with 31 students Aug. 22-24. Four additional Partner Projects will run Sept.12-14. (Photo by Kyle Carter)


The Partner Project launched its 2019 slate of workshops at Gautier High School in Gautier, Mississippi Aug. 25. Yearbook adviser Rebecca Coursey and her media teacher colleagues Hunter Jones and Jackie Williamson joined their collective 31 students across three media classes for the three-day training workshop taught by Michelle Balmeo, MJE, from Albany, Oregon; Kyle Carter, CJE, from Richland, Missouri; and R.J. Morgan, CJE, Director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association.

Students began with Balmeo leading an ice breaker activity that energized the room and asked each of them, students and teachers, to “jump in” this week.

“Part of what we do is get them excited about the possibilities,” Balmeo said. “For all but four in this group, what we were teaching was brand new, their first ever experience with media. We wanted them to see how amazing it is to have a voice in the world and a venue to share the stories within your school and community.”

After a day of learning that went through finding story ideas, developing clear angles, finding sources, preparing for an interview, and using photography to capture powerful visuals, the students came back the next day ready to put it all into action.

On day two, students broke into three teams — interviewers, broadcast journalists, and photographers to cover a press conference held by the school’s principal. Afterward, they received a yearbook critique, set up their new school news website provided by School Newspapers Online, and learned about the First Amendment and student press law. 

That evening a few students and the instructors met at the Friday night football game to put their photography lessons into practice. 

Saturday, students from four nearby schools joined the group at GHS for convention-style sessions on asking better questions, sports photography and cutline writing, branding and marketing their publications, and creating alternative story forms.

“Students crave curricular opportunities that offer autonomy and engagement — that give them a voice and offer them room to explore and take charge of their own learning,” Morgan said. “That’s what I saw in the students at Gautier, and that’s what I saw in their teachers and administration. That level of curiosity and excitement can’t help but make their publications better, their school climate more inclusive and their entire student body stronger academically.”

Coursey is excited about the “seeds” planted during the three-day workshop, and her students are already thinking of ways to pay it forward for the remainder of the year.

“My yearbook kids are planning to teach each other some of the lessons they got, and then possibly hold a mini workshop for the middle school kids in the spring. Nashville is on the table!” Coursey said. “I plan to start a student media club that will meet after school to reach more students who share my enthusiasm for the human story. I’m hoping to excite and empower the student body by showing them how journalism matters even when they don’t realize it!  

It was hard work, but I know I had so much fun learning!”

The workshop in Gautier kicked off the first of five JEA Partner Projects to be held this year. The other four are slated Sept. 12-14 at Eppler Junior High in Utica, Michigan, Kingsbury High School in Memphis, Tennessee, Norte Vista High School in Riverside, California and Omaha South High Magnet School in Omaha, Nebraska.

The application form for the JEA Partner Project will open in 2020. More information is available here.

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