What are the students of The Youth Media Workshop learning that
complements what they’re learning in school? How has this
informal partnership between WILL, the U of I African American
Cultural Center, and local
school districts benefited at-risk African-American students?
1. Resources. The students of the YMW have access to resources.
One of the reasons given in 1968 for the desegregation of
Champaign’s public schools was that schools in black
neighborhoods lacked resources. They had old books and old
The YMW gives students access to resources. They interview
members of the community in WILL’s professional radio studio.
They edit those interviews on a laptop using advanced audio
editing software. They are trained by professional staff with
year’s experience producing radio and television programs. They
are producers of media not just consumers.
They are becoming familiar and comfortable with the resources
around them and are beginning to feel that “Yes, these resources
are for me, too.” They are part of my future.
2. A positive self-image. The students of the YMW are developing
self-confidence and a positive self-image. The Supreme Court
made segregation of our public schools illegal because
segregation created a negative self-image for black students and
a feeling of superiority among white students.
The YMW builds the self-confidence of student participants.
Students have goals that they achieve along the way and an end
product to show for their achievement. As they excel, they are
given more responsibilities, including helping teach skills to
the new students, and again their confidence is improved.
They give presentations to community and university folks
monthly about their progress and these adults support them.
They meet older African-Americans from this community whose
achievement and perspective are admired by the students. By
linking the students to generations of the past, the students
can see their place in history and imagine a different future
for themselves and their community.
3. Preparation. The students of the YMW are learning skills that
are preparing them for college and a career. Many black
students, especially from low-income households, are not
prepared to enter school and are not prepared when they leave
school. The YMW helps prepare them. We work with them to teach
them the valuable skills of library research, critical analysis,
media literacy, and self-discipline. They increase and improve
their vocabulary as they encounter new words.
And what do the students who are fortunate enough to be in the
YMW give back? Plenty.
The students’ radio program and their research--the interviews
they do and the transcripts of those interviews–-are donated to
area libraries to preserve local oral histories. Future
researchers will use the students’ work as primary source
The students better understand the link between their behavior
and teacher expectations. And their behavior improves as they
make this connection.
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