Eight weeks ago when we received word schools would be shuttered for the remainder of the school year, I launched the Junior Reporter program. When I originally thought of the idea, I was hoping it would be a way for parents and teachers to engage their students in virtual learning. A fun way students could complete an assignment, continue their education and get a little recognition in the paper for their efforts.
It turned into something much bigger.
I thought a few kids every week would participate. I was hoping to get at least six entries every week. The students of McPherson responded in a big way, blowing my projections out of the water. Each week, we had dozens of submissions and I was challenged to select just a few to run in the paper. My own son even participated and getting him to write has always been a challenge.
Each week as my inbox filled with assignments from students, my heart would swell. I’ve been spending so much time reporting on how COVID-19 is impacting our community that I often feel bogged down in the negativity. Those emails would lift my spirits and bring me smiles and laughter to break up the dark news. I feel like I know many of the students now. I could recognize their pets, know how they like to spend their free time and recognize their writing style.
I also started receiving emails from readers. I received an email from a grandfather who said he looked forward to getting the paper each week to see if his granddaughter had a submission. He hasn’t been able to see her since the pandemic started and it was another way for him to feel connected. I’ve received emails from parents telling me that my words of praise made their child’s day. Some from teachers thanking me for the opportunity to help their students continue their education at home. To know what started as a little project has helped people connect means a lot to me and makes me feel even more grateful to the students for participating.
This is a new time in our world. We are all still learning how to navigate. But, each of us can do something to help someone else. It may be as simple as starting a writing program for children or something on a bigger level. But, we can all do something bigger than ourselves. The students in McPherson have reminded me each week that we have a bright future ahead if we all just have to do our part.
This week is the final week of the Junior Reporter program. I’m going to miss having my inbox fill up with emails from students. If you know any of the students who participated in the program, please acknowledge their efforts. They all worked hard and I’m so very proud of them. I wish each of them nothing but the best as they finish out their school year.
Jessie Wagoner is the managing editor of the McPherson News-Ledger and single mama to Sylas K and Selah J. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.