Fourth- and fifth-grade students at Saint Paul’s Maxfield Elementary School will soon be featured in their own newspaper, thanks largely to the hard work of a graphic design and storytelling class at Bethel University.
They are two very different schools: the public elementary school sits in the historically African-American Rondo neighborhood, with many students receiving free- or reduced-price lunch. Bethel, a private Christian institution with a majority white population, is located in suburban Arden Hills.
So what brings these two schools together?
Scott Winter, a journalism instructor at Bethel who lives in the Rondo neighborhood with his wife, was looking to get more involved in the community. So, he pitched the idea of a Bethel-led newspaper in an urban elementary school to his graphic design students.
“They were really excited about it,” Winter said of his college students.
It’s the first journalism class for David Crane, a journalism minor at Bethel.
“I was super excited [about] getting to work with younger kids about a field I don’t know a lot about,” Crane said.
Winter also brought his idea to Ryan Vernosh, the principal at Maxfield Elementary. And that’s when Winter realized this idea could work at Maxfield.
“The first thing the principal said to me was, ‘These students don’t need a savior, they need opportunities,’” Winter said. “… That has kind of been our mission. Let’s provide opportunity for these kids to take photos, to write, to get published and to see their name in print, and to realize their ideas, their skills are worth something.”
Winter also wanted to give his college students real-world experience with newspaper design, instead of giving them practice exercises in class. He decided to give them a goal like a coach, building his class to be like a team.
“If that goal is, ‘We are going to make a school newspaper for Maxfield Elementary,’ then I think they will work harder and the work will be more meaningful to them,” Winter said.
CeCe Gaines, a sophomore in Winter’s class, agrees.
“Instead of just sitting in a classroom and learning how to design a magazine, we’re actually doing application work and actually making something that we can be proud of,” she said.
The 17 Bethel students will work with about 100 students in fourth- and fifth-grade classes at Maxfield.
Most of the Bethel students already work for the campus student newspaper, the Clarion, which won a national college media award in 2015. The class will use the Clarion as a model to publish what it plans to call the “Maxfield Times.” The newspaper, which is expected to be out before Christmas, is a final project for the Bethel students.
“It’s going to look like the City Pages, like a news magazine,” Winter said.
Maxfield elementary students will take photos of their classmates, do some writing and take surveys. These small actions will provide content that the college students will use to piece together a working newspaper.
For example, Maxfield students will answer surveys about simple things such as their favorite food, candy and movies. The college students then will take that information and compose it into graphics with quotes and images for the newspaper.
As of October, the program was expected to run for about six weeks on Fridays, with different college students participating on different days, and was expected to include a celebration at the end when the newspaper is published.
The ultimate goal is to provide the children with the opportunity to gain skills that are worth having.
“They’re so impressionable,” Gaines said, “and just to see how they are trying to be independent and navigate with cameras or reporting, it’s great to see them doing that.”