Wheeling Middle Schoolers Use Reporting Project to Tackle Tough Topics

May 3, 2017

It’s not often we hear from young people about issues that affect young people. After visiting an eighth grade writing class at Wheeling Middle School, and asking this class if they would be interested in pitching story ideas, several students decided there were issues they’d like to tackle.

This series of short stories is the result of a learning partnership between West Virginia Public Broadcasting and Wheeling Middle School. After several months working with teacher Matt Heusel and his 8th grade writing class, a handful of commentaries emerged on issues the students themselves chose to explore.

Standardized Testing Part One: The Smartphone of Education

Student council president at Wheeling Middle School, Jake Brozowski explores some of the fundamental issues behind standardized testing, calling on experts who visited the class and using metaphors to illustrate points.

Standardized Testing Part Two: Can Art Improve Scores?

Mikhari Benjamin and Isabelle Bringman highlight lessons learned while researching and questioning experts on standardized testing. They also back themselves up, musically. Matt Heusel’s 8th grade writing class at Wheeling Middle School all pitch in with cello, violin, and vocals.

Meet the First Male Cheerleader at Wheeling Middle School

Steven Wilson is the first male cheerleader at Wheeling Middle School. He and his teammate Caroline Spencer comment on discrimination, or the lack thereof on their team, and other details of their cheerleading experiences together.

Q&A: Peers Discuss Peer Pressure and Drugs

Laila Clark and Harmonie Jackson-Mayfield have a conversation about exposure to drug use in middle school years, and the concerns they have about peer pressure. These two young women are both athletes and musicians, they both come from big families, and they decided to explore the topic of drug use, why and how kids their age get exposed to it.

“School” a song by Laniyah Westley

When prompted to pitch an idea worth sharing over radio, Laniyah Westley opted to write lyrics to a new song. The subject is “school” but she incorporates other important themes in her life - like her family and neighborhood environments - articulating what worries her and the things (like school) that help her cope with life challenges. Her writing teacher Matt Heusel accompanies her on guitar, she adds rhythm playing the edge of a desk with her hands.

On This Reporting Project

West Virginia Public Broadcasting news director Jesse Wright discusses how this youth reporting project came to be with the project’s producer, Northern Bureau Chief Glynis Board.