By Jayne O’Donnell
Have I got a deal for you.
While we’re all fretting about the economy, there’s at least one sure-fire investment that doesn’t depend on Wall Street or Washington: young people. I’m talking about the ones who’ll tell the stories and highlight the solutions to help their communities heal.
Many are ready to work – to write articles, create graphics and produce social media posts – but we are in such a financial tight spot till September that we can’t afford to pay them and the instructors needed to help them. Paying students while we’re training them has been key to our success since we piloted the concept in the summer, 2020. Consider Miami’s Hermes Falcon (he/him): The Cuban-American rising sophomore at Illinois’ Bradley University has been a paid intern since his senior year of high school and is a prolific TikTok contributor on the decriminalization of mental illness, along with a graphics and newsletter designer.
Your returns will be so strong and long-lasting, they’re near incalculable. Your return on investment is guaranteed based on past performance. Here’s a few gratifying recent dividends:
- Kymani Hughes (Miami), student contributor published in the Philadelphia Tribune and the online site Mindsite News, heads to Syracuse University this fall with a generous aid package.
- Two-thirds of Providence middle school students said in an anonymous survey that they had a good or excellent understanding of the racial wealth gap after a recent nine-week unit on income inequality, its effect on health and the solutions. Just one in five reported that level of understanding prior to the unit.
- 61% of those students rated their ability to write a script for an Instagram Reel as good or excellent after the class, compared to only 25% of students before class.
- Dionna Duncan (DC), a 2020 workshop participant, independent writer and YMG-nominated DC representative for the 2021 Freedom Forum Institute’s high school Free Spirit and Journalism conference, is a rising freshman at North Carolina A&T State University.
- Pooja Singh (Baltimore), who graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and global studies, was able to leave fast food management for a full-time visuals editing job with us in March 2021. She’s now in a prestigious masters of science program in Global Health at Duke University. She’s currently on a research trip in Africa, while still contributing to our content and programs.
- Krystal Li (Miami), a student workshop participant turned assistant mentor editor, reported on housing affordability which was published in the Miami New Times and on the impact of COVID-19 on high school students which was published on Mindsite News. She will attend Stanford University this fall.
- Donovan McClain (Baltimore), a rising junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, just completed his second workshop with us and will be working as a summer social media intern as often as we can pay him. The aspiring surgeon moderated a then-Urban Health Media Project Therapy Thursday session on back-to-school mental health in 2021. He says his work covering obesity last summer motivated him to work on a food insecurity documentary with a Baltimore nonprofit.
- Aliya Kaufman-Daniel (DC), a member of our first class of students in March 2017, wrote about public transit woes in Washington, D.C. She is a rising junior at University of Massachusetts-Lowell, on a full scholarship she credits to her work with our organization. An international business major, Aliya now works as an intern on YMG’s operations team doing data analysis projects.
- Angely Pena-Agramonte (Miami), a five-time workshop participant who was promoted to workshop assistant mentor editor, received a scholarship from the Miami Herald and will be attending University of Miami this fall. Angely’s articles include those on the stress of remote learning on high school seniors and Miami’s worsened housing affordability crisis in the Miami New Times.
- Michelle Mairena (Miami), a former workshop participant and Nicaraguan immigrant, is a new YMG intern whose position is being funded by Stanford University, where she is a prospective History and Earth Systems double major. She is interested in community advocacy and combating climate disinformation and is the daughter and grandchild of journalists.
- Amora Campbell (DC), former student participant and intern published in USA TODAY and on Medshadow.org and YMG representative on two national webinars, just finished her freshman year at Ohio State University. She’s on a full scholarship and majoring in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
- Nicole Cortes (Locust Grove, GA), a workshop participant and student reporter at the Sozosei Summit in December, will attend the University of Georgia on a full scholarship this fall. Nicole also reported on the new mental health hotline which will launch nationally next month. Her story was published on the online news site The Land. She was also published in USA TODAY in April writing about how a counselor shortage in high schools is affecting students.
- Radiah Jamil (New York City) participated in multiple workshops as a student before her promotion to assistant mentor editor in fall 2021 and covered the 2021 Sozosei Summit. This fall, she will attend St. John's University in Queens, NY. Radiah reported on violence compounding grief of families who’ve lost loved ones to Covid-19 in the Philadelphia Tribune, and on peer support bolstering mental wellness in Maryland, published in the Afro (Baltimore).
I still remember the exact spot I was walking my dog one morning in early 2018 when Josh Mitchell, then a senior at Richard Wright School for Journalism and Media Arts, texted to thank me for all of the opportunities we had provided as he had just been named a Posse Scholar. That program gave him a full scholarship to attend his first-choice school: University of Wisconsin-Madison. He followed up with a call to say he had told interviewers about getting published with me in USA TODAY. It was a story on the decline of physical education in schools, and he participated in an interview and shot photos of then-Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams (who Mitchell met a year earlier while Adams was Indiana health secretary and we were covering a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event).
So while headlines might lead you to think we are headed for a dark place — and you brace for what happens to your 401(k) plan, stocks or mutual funds — your investment in the next generation of journalists and health communicators offers hope for them today and for all of our tomorrows.