University of Delaware
Project Lede campers celebrate deliver of the Cloonan Chronicle.

The Cloonan Chronicle

UD junior brings journalism to middle school kids through Service Learning


3:06 p.m., Aug. 13, 2013--Writing a good story lead is one of a journalist’s biggest challenges, but two middle-school students in the Project Lede summer camp already have a pretty good idea of how to pull it off.

“These were the hardest four weeks of the summer,” they wrote in an article reflecting on the camp experience. “We started quiet; now we are loud. We were shy; now we are excited to talk to people we’ve never met. Now we are not afraid to share.”

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The two young writers are among 28 middle-school students from Stamford, Conn., who spent four weeks this summer learning about journalism – and about life – from two college students, University of Delaware junior Elizabeth Quartararo and Harvard junior Jackie Schechter, through Project Lede. The name of the program is a play on words with leadership and “lede,” the journalistic term for the start of a newspaper article.

A not-for-profit initiative that empowers middle-school students to start and run their own school newspapers in print and online, Project Lede was funded with a $10,000 start-up grant from Harvard.  Quartararo’s involvement was supported through a Service Learning Fellowship from UD.

“Jackie and I met in high school, where we both worked on the student-run newspaper, The Westword,” says Quartararo, an Honors Program student and executive editor of The Review. “There, we developed a passion for journalism and an appreciation for the skill sets and character traits that journalism by its nature imparts.”

Aware that middle school is a vulnerable time for kids, Quartararo and Schechter wanted to engage students at this formative point in their lives. They decided to bring the school newspaper experience to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, and Project Lede was born.

“Most middle schools don’t have school papers, yet journalism can be an incredible teaching tool for promoting community and student activism, improving writing and critical thinking skills, and instilling drive, responsibility, and other important character traits in students,” Quartararo says.

Twenty days of interviewing, learning software, teambuilding, writing stories, taking pictures, and making videos culminated in a 12-page newspaper featuring articles about culture, sports, fashion, arts and entertainment, and technology as well as opinion and advice pieces.

“I learned a lot from the camp, but mostly that journalism is all about sharing stories, and everyone has a story to share,” wrote one camper in a Project Lede blog entry reflecting on the experience.

According to Quartararo, the students will have their own newspaper room at their school this fall, and many of them expressed excitement about getting back to school to start working on the paper.

“They’re already showing a level of commitment and enthusiasm that has surpassed our expectations,” she says. “We’ve also had parents and teachers tell us that they've never seen some of these kids this motivated, this involved, or writing as well as they were in the camp.”

Quartararo, who says that the newspaper was her life in high school, is just as pleased with the social impact the camp had on the kids as she is with what they learned.

“It feels just like yesterday that I walked into a room filled with people who I didn’t even know,” reflected one camper. “But now it feels like I know everyone and we’re like a family, one team creating and distributing ideas with each other. Look where we are now — we all created a wonderful newspaper called The Cloonan Chronicle.”

Article by Diane Kukich

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