The Rapidian

Students gain confidence, experience, voice through press club

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The Press Club, sponsored by the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities News Bureau, has not only grown in number of participants, but has become a catalyst for a positive public youth voice.
Press Club students working on articles for The Rapidian after a field trip.

Press Club students working on articles for The Rapidian after a field trip. /Steffanie Rosalez

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Want to read articles written by the Press Club?

Look on the GAAH bureau webpage to find articles written by the students in the Press Club! 

Members of the Andy Angelo Press Club. Standing from left to right; Steffanie Rosalez, Lori Slager, Katie Caralis.

Members of the Andy Angelo Press Club. Standing from left to right; Steffanie Rosalez, Lori Slager, Katie Caralis. /Lori Slager

On Thursday, May 5, 2011, the first article written by a member of the Andy Angelo Press Club went live on The Rapidian's GAAH Bureau webpage. Since its launch, the Press Club has dramatically grown from six elementary and middle school aged students to the current number of 30 members who are actively involved. Each is student coming to learn the arts of writing and journalism. 

Due to increased interest and participation in the Press Club it has recently been split into two groups. The Andy Angelo Press Club, named after the beloved Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities (GAAH) board member who passed away last July, is the more advanced press club, while the Cub Reporters is the group made up of avid writers aspiring to advance into the Andy Angelo club. They must have a total of 10 published articles on The Rapidian in order to qualify.   

"I have loved to write ever since I first learned how to write… I would be the one that was always writing in my journal, even in kindergarten!" says Ailyn, an outgoing 11-year-old. 

Not all children are as excited, but instead often associate writing with schoolwork as a mandatory and boring task, explains Lori Slager, Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC). Slager runs the Press Club with Katie Caralis, Program Director at the CYC, and Steffanie Rosalez, Program Director at the Cook Arts Center, a branch of GAAH.

"When they first started working with us they were very hesitant, always afraid they were going to do it wrong. But now it's to the point where they'll just sit down and start writing like crazy," Slager says.

"When I started I didn't like writing because it was hard. But it got better, because now I understand how to do it," says 10-year-old Edgar, in the more andvanced Andy Angelo Press Club.

Many students say what attracted them to the Press Club and keeps them motivated are the field trips. Past field trips have included visits to the GRAM, ArtPrize, the Nutcracker and even meeting Mayor Heartwell. After each field trip the group returns to the Cook Arts Center to spend time writing about their experience. They edit their articles in a workshop style format. The kids not only receive instruction from Slager, Caralis and Rosalez, but also learn the important skills of peer collaboration and critiquing.

These experiences have drastically improved the students writing skills, says Rosalez. She says the glue that holds the Press Club together is the relational ties that have formed between the kids.

"I found that the thing they really like about it is that they like to be in a club. They feel cool, special and included," she says. 

"They are the smartest, most active kids here. They are the leaders; they have great ideas," Rosalez says of the commonality between students in the press clubs. 

The members of the Press Club are learning how to become engaged citizens by partaking in the Grand Rapids culture and then using writing as a platform to share their thoughts with a wide audience. 

"It feels good to have someone reading your writing instead of just having it all to yourself." Ailyn says.

Slager and Rosalez agree that publishing their work for a real audience gives the students their confidence and motivation.

"It makes me feel special. It makes me feel excited and important that people read my work," says Edgar. 

Slager, Caralis and Rosalez lead the students with the simple mission of being a positive adult influence in the student's lives, which attributes to the growth and effectiveness they've seen in the clubs.

"[The mission of the Press Club is] about getting kids excited and confident, helping to prepare them for life. It's about creative problem solving, being confident and okay in your thoughts and ideas to share them. We're trying to incorporate all these life experiences into the program," says Slager.

Look for Press Club articles online on the GAAH bureau page.

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