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The write stuff: Sardis Elementary students take on real-world journalism

Last year, Sardis Elementary launched an exciting new club that gives students a taste of real-world journalism experience. This unique opportunity allows students to interview, write and photograph for the school's newspaper, developing their creativity and enhancing their writing skills.

Recently, three students from the club had the chance to interview UCPS Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan. Merey Madikyzy, a bright and curious first-grader, Madeline Hilse, a passionate fifth grader and Ottis Allen, an enthusiastic fourth grader, wore their press badges with pride and conducted a professional interview. Their thoughtful questions and keen observations highlighted their growth and confidence as budding reporters.

"When we interview someone, we study their background," said Merey. "For Dr. Houlihan, we went onto the website and read about him. We did the same when we interviewed the mayor and a restaurant owner." 

Ottis has loved the photography part of it, too. 

"It's my second favorite to writing. It's fun to get a good shot. It tells another part of the story," said Ottis. 

Madeline said she learned a lot that she did not know about Dr. Houlihan before and after the interview.

"I had no idea he had won the Southwest Regional Superintendent of the Year twice, which is great," said Madeline. "After talking to him, I was amazed by how many meetings he has and his schedule."

The students were surprised to see the superintendent without a limousine and bodyguards, expecting a presidential-style arrival.

"He's the boss of all the schools," said Ottis. "It was exciting to meet him. What stood out to me was when we asked him about his favorite part of his job. He told us it was going into the schools and meeting kids like us."

They all agreed this was one of their favorite interviews. 

The writing club, initiated by teachers Lori Stalcup and Alli Geisinger, started with a humble group of 12 students. In just a year, it has blossomed to include 20 students, now welcoming even a few eager third-graders. The club's expansion shows its success in engaging students and nurturing their passion for storytelling.

"We brought in three third-graders this year because of how good their writing was because it has been only for fourth and fifth graders," said Merey. "No matter what level your writing is at, they can join. We are here to learn to be better writers."

As these students know, no interview would be complete without fun facts. Their interests also extend to Sardis Rocks, the school’s rock band. Madeline and Merey sing while Ottis plays the guitar.

By participating in the club, these young reporters are improving their writing skills and learning valuable life skills such as critical thinking, communication and teamwork. The journalism club at Sardis Elementary is an incredible platform for students to explore their interests and develop new talents. For Stalcup, it is a dream come true.

"I've always wanted a newspaper, so children can express themselves outside what the classroom demands," said Stalcup. "It allows them to work on communication and collaboration skills. It helps them express themselves with no judgment. It is a way for them to write about their experiences. Everyone in the club has a role." 

The digital publication comes out once a month. Geisinger said her sister in Massachusetts reads it faithfully. 

"She's our biggest fan," said Geisinger. "I love seeing how much they've grown and how much pride they take in themselves. They happily wear their press badges. They come up with their own ideas, so it has empowered them to be independent thinkers."