Student authors shine at 2013 book launch

June 2013…Student journalists signed copies of their new book, Leading Healthy Change In Our Communities 2013, as Healthy NewsWorks celebrated its second student-authored book and its 10th year serving young writers and the community.

Not many book signings are like this one. Fourteen co-authors (representing 70 writers and illustrators) sat at tables in the main hall of the Merion Tribute House, answering questions and signing pages in the book. With them were nine of the 12 community leaders interviewed for the book.

In 10 years, Healthy NewsWorks has published 263 newspaper issues (including 42 at 14 schools this year), according to Marian Uhlman, director of the organization.

“This whole project is about community, and bringing community together to create healthier communities,” Marian said in opening remarks before about 120 guests. The core of the program, she said, is “teaching journalism so the kids can communicate these very important health messages and ideas to their community.”

Keynote speaker for the event was Sarah Martinez-Helfman, executive director of the Eagles Youth Partnership and an interviewee for the 2012 publication of Leading Healthy Change In Our Communities.

She told the student journalists that she writes a lot for the Eagles Youth Partnership.

“Most of that writing isn’t about expressing my feelings. It’s about trying to move people. Starting right here, in their hearts. Really trying to move them, to take action, do something different, to consider an issue differently,” she said.

But the real stars of the event were the student journalists, who told their own stories about how Healthy NewsWorks has helped them.

“Newspaper Club helped me not be afraid of talking in front of a lot of people or students. That was my biggest fear,” said Gotwals Elementary third-grader Linette Flores, looking out at the audience. “I still enjoy Newspaper Club; it was such a great thing that happened in my life.” Read more student reflections here.

Also speaking were Erin McKeown and Molly Quinn, who were student staffers on the very first newspaper that Healthy NewsWorks published 10 years ago when they were in fifth grade.

“We’re both going to school now to be future teachers, and our education professors constantly stress to us how important it is to teach our students that you write for a purpose. It really brings life to your writing, and it’s so important to realize that at a young age. And that’s exactly what The Healthy Times did for us,” Molly said.

Leading Healthy Change In Our Communities 2013 features student interviews of a dozen leaders in the Philadelphia region who have important messages about health, safety, and giving back to the community. They include:

  • Marcus Allen, chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters Southeastern PA.
  • Joan Myers Brown, founder of PHILADANCO.
  • Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University.
  • Mohammed Al Jumaili, a community volunteer and student at Abington High School.
  • Heather McDanel, executive director of Students Run Philly Style.
  • Charles Ramsey, commissioner of police for the City of Philadelphia.

(See the complete list here.)

At tables around the hall, nomination forms invited the audience to recommend leaders to interview for the students’ next book.

The event closed with everyone—students and the audience—singing “Happy Birthday” to Healthy NewsWorks, and a birthday cake for the organization.

The event was also a fundraiser, and Amy Krulik, advisory board chair for Healthy Newsworks, asked the audience for their continued support.

“We are here tonight because of these kids. And because of support from each and every one of you in the room tonight,” she said.

“For 10 years, Healthy NewsWorks reporters have been learning valuable lessons about research, accurate reporting, and concise and engaging writing. And because the reporting focuses on important health and wellness issues, they have been bringing vital information to their peers, teachers, and families,” Amy said.

“The last 10 years are a testament to what we can accomplish, when we all work together.”

—By Erich Smith, Healthy NewsWorks volunteer


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