Two months ago, Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club had a breakthrough idea: starting a member-run newspaper. The impact of this program has manifested in extraordinary ways, and has strengthened the bond between members and staff.
“Our community is going through a challenging time and this newspaper is one of the best things happening in our organization today,” explained Jordan Club’s Director of Operations Kelly Lawler. “Yes, it is a very engaging activity for our members to learn, grow, and explore their interests. But beyond that, it is guiding our Club community through the unpredictability of life today by bringing us closer together.”
Newspapers are exciting!
Sarah Scire, Art Program Manager, and Javon Robinson, Pre-Teen Coordinator, have brought this program to life. While Club members currently have the option to attend Club in person or remotely, the duo were looking for a simple way to connect these two separate groups.
“We were trying to think of a program that could give everyone an opportunity to be a part of something big together,” explained Scire. “Many members attending Clubs in-person weren’t getting the opportunity to participate in programs alongside our members who were participating virtually. We wanted to preserve the connections that they all had formed before our operating model had to change.”
When Scire and Robinson shared their idea for a member-run newspaper, their members reacted with some hesitancy.
“We quickly found out that, on the surface, the concept of a newspaper isn’t the most exciting thing for kids today,” explained Robinson. “However, when members learned that this newspaper would feature a ‘Member of the Week’ showcase, a ‘What I Learned This Week’ column, a ‘Riddle Me This’ puzzle section, and many other fun and engaging types of content, their attitudes started to shift and they wanted to be a part of it.”
When collaborating becomes connecting
The program, which includes members participating from inside the Club as well as remotely, takes place every Thursday after school and is run through Zoom. On Friday, new editions are shared digitally and printed and distributed throughout the Club.
“Me and Javon open up discussions with members about what is happening in their lives, and we use that as a starting point for coming up with story ideas,” explained Scire. “As we close in on topics, I can share my screen with Adobe Illustrator open and we begin crafting the story together.”
However, Scire and Robinson quickly learned that these conversations had the potential to lead to more than just story ideas.
“As members begin sharing details of their lives, it gives us a chance to support them and offer guidance and advice,” explained Robinson. “Staying connected with members, and the ups and downs of their day-to-day lives throughout the pandemic, has been more challenging over the past year. This program has been a catalyst for opening up deep and meaningful conversations with our members.”
As an organization that thrives on mentorship and providing role models for the youth of Chelsea to look up to, this program highlights one of the Club’s greatest strengths. And beyond this, it is providing staff with an opportunity to connect members to the world of news beyond their Club and community.
“Our ‘World News’ section is designed to broaden the perspectives of the youth working on this project, and also to help them see the ways that the world’s news can play a role in their own lives,” explained Scire. “For example, we featured a company that is focused on finding ways to convert plastic into a type of concrete. In the process of publishing this story, we wanted members to understand that one day they may be driving on roads made with this new and innovative material.”
On top of connecting members with staff and the outside world, the Jordan Club News is connecting members with each other. While working together, they are all sharing a sense of motivation to produce their own valuable contribution to the project that they can put their name on.
“Members take pride in publishing their ideas, and it creates a sense of anticipation leading up to each issue that can be felt throughout the Club.” explains Robinson. “And then as members read what their friends are writing, they are motivated to contribute work with their name on it too. This positive feedback loop has helped the program grow quickly, and has also made our publishing and delivery days among the most exciting days in our Club.”
The future of Jordan Club News
Looking ahead, Jordan Club’s staff hopes to continue to utilize this program as a vehicle to guide members through this challenging point in time.
“We are excited to see how the program continues to evolve, but one thing that will always be constant is that this paper represents the voice of the youth producing it,” said Scire. “We believe we have found something truly special here that we would love to share with other Clubs in Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston’s network.”
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