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ASU forms partnership to help underserved schools

October 04, 2007

The Stardust Foundation is making a $510,000 grant to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU to fund a groundbreaking outreach initiative to create high school journalism programs in underserved communities in Arizona.

Ten Arizona high schools will be selected to participate in the Stardust High School Journalism Program. The program will create multimedia newsrooms in each school, and it also will help teach journalism advisers and students about the skills and values of journalism.

The Stardust Foundation is a nonprofit corporation founded by Jerry Bisgrove in 1993. Headquartered in Scottsdale, the foundation is designed to selectively provide grants to organizations that have an impact on the linked concepts of family and neighborhood stability.

“Stardust values the opportunity to expose more students to careers in journalism,” Bisgrove says. “The communication skills they will learn in this program will be useful to them, regardless of their chosen profession. In today’s fast-paced, information-driven world, effective communication is vital to achieving success in all facets of one’s life.”

ASU President Michael Crow applauded Bisgrove and the Stardust Foundation initiative.

“ASU is committed to making a difference in the lives of our community members, and the Stardust High School Journalism Program is certain to make a lasting impact on the lives of the participating students,” he says.

The Stardust High School Journalism Program is believed to be the first university-based initiative in the country to create newsrooms in high schools, according to Christopher Callahan, the Cronkite School’s dean.

Callahan says that while studies show high school journalism students do better in high school and college, many high school journalism programs have fallen by the wayside, the victim of budget cuts and other priorities. He says the problem is particularly acute in schools with large minority populations, which are the least likely to publish student papers.

The media industry also has a stake, Callahan says. A majority of journalists became interested in the profession through exposure to their high school newspapers, so reaching minority and underserved students early eventually will create a larger pool of candidates for media companies.

“High school journalism programs provide students with opportunities to improve their writing and interpersonal skills, and give school communities a forum for news and exchange of ideas,” Callahan says. “We are enormously grateful to the Stardust Foundation and Jerry Bisgrove for providing the leadership to help create these programs in underserved schools.”

The initiative is part of a broader Cronkite School effort to reach out to high schools. The school recently hired a new director for high school programs, Anita Luera, a longtime journalist and past president of the Arizona Latino Media Association.

For the first time this summer, the school played host to the Reynolds High School Journalism Institute, a two-week fellowship program for 35 high school journalism instructors from across the country. Each year the school also conducts two daylong workshops for students interested in journalism, as well as two summer journalism institutes that bring high school students to campus for a two-week immersion experience in journalism.

Schools interested in participating in the Stardust program should contact Luera, the school’s director of high school programs, at (480) 965-5477.