In the Spring of 2016, an aspiring Student Council representative told her peers that she believed the students of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School should have a voice in the school’s newsletter and on the website. Mia Fairchild wanted to tell the stories of her generation in her own words – whether it was how kids were raising awareness about environmental issues, giving back to the community, or simply enjoying an ice cream social on campus. Her campaign platform caught the attention of St. Francis’ recently appointed communications coordinator, and soon after, the WOLF News Student Journalism Program was born.
Founded on the belief that student-centered learning builds critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork skills, WOLF News provides a platform for students to write and report original news stories with a youth perspective on important issues.
“Through WOLF News, we hope to build skills that translate to other areas of life for our reporters,” says Allison Clewett, St. Francis communications coordinator and WOLF News advisor. “We want to transform their understanding of news, inspire civic engagement, and generate a life-long interest in current events.”
The program is now in its second year. Fairchild has taken on the role of editor, leading her peers in the WOLF News Reporter Corps. Joining her are five middle school students with a passion for writing and a love for their school community. Their stories focus on education and technology, how faith impacts students, teachers, parents, and the community, and the impact of events and activities at St. Francis.
“I never thought my idea would grow into something this big,” says Fairchild. “It is exciting to see what we have built and know that I helped create something new and exciting for my school.”
The WOLF News Press Corps also collaborates with St. Francis’ Student Council representatives to take their work beyond the written page. The WOLF News team produces a weekly news broadcast to share their stories along with school-wide announcements with students, staff, and families in an interesting and innovative format. Reporters gain valuable public speaking experience as well as creative opportunities using iPad apps and editing programs in the school’s newly renovated
Innovation Center, which boasts a dedicated recording studio equipped with green screens, lighting, and recording equipment. Enabling students to apply their skills and share their work with a real audience using the proper tools makes difference to these budding professionals.
“The best part about this program is that our friends and families actually read what we write and see what we say on WOLF News,” says Fairchild. “It isn’t just the teacher grading us on our work. Hearing that someone learned something from my reports motivates me to do my best.”
St. Francis encourages all of its students to pursue their interests with poise and confidence. That spirit of empowerment and drive to make a difference is evident in the way the WOLF News team approaches each assignment and story.
“The Wolf News Journalism Program supports our school’s academic and leadership objectives. The program prepares students to incorporate writing and speaking with investigative research and technology to create and publish news stories of interest to the school community,” says St. Francis Principal Tom Waszak.
The program’s learning opportunities have also extended outside of the classroom. Last spring student reporters connected with producers at the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) located at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove for a tour of the studio and hands-on experience creating a mock broadcast. Each reporter practiced their craft on the EWTN set, taking cues from professional television producers, reading from teleprompters, modifying lighting, and learning about the time, talent, and collaboration required to complete a successful show. Students also had the chance to operate the controls behind the scenes, where they counted down to cue producers in the studio, operated teleprompters, and were introduced to the many different roles and responsibilities of a production crew.
“WOLF News creates a unique opportunity for students to experience the culture of journalism and build their confidence and skills in real-life situations at a young age,” says St. Francis Vice Principal Jeannette Lambert. “Often these types of programs don’t begin until high school or college. Now, our students who discover an aptitude for writing and reporting may be inspired to continue expanding their abilities at the next stage of their educational journey.”
WOLF News reports can be found on the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School website and the school’s YouTube channel.