A new journalism program at Downtown High School has helped the city teen Buddy Farmer find his literary voice.
“They liked how I write”, said the 16-year-old reporter, “and they asked me, did I want to be part of a school paper?”
Farmer said yes. Farmer told the press he had not always liked writing but discovered he had talent after his teachers pointed it out. “I thought writing would be a good idea because that way I could let the other students know how I feel about things and give my point of view,” he said.
Farmer’ newspaper is called City Mouse, in honor of the Church District high school’s mascot. According to English teacher Mary Montgomery, the program started as a result of class overcrowding in September of last year.
“I was asked to the lake on a couple of classes because class sizes were too big. And J said, ‘sure if I can teach journalism,” Montgomery said. Though a veteran of the city school system, Montgomery is new to Downtown High. Her last assignment was as a consultant to the Ministry of Education in Botswana, southern Africa, where she helped develop teacher training programs.
This is her first journalism class. Teacher Sarah Casey also helps teach the class. Farmer and the 15 other students in Montgomery’s class are not only learning reporting and writing, but also valuable computer skills. The class is equipped with a brace of powerful computers with PageMaker programs, and a $900 scanner is en route. The scanner will allow students to illustrate their paper with photos and art.
“It’s really important that they learn how to do the layout,” said Montgomery. “But, the kids work on improving their writing skills, and that’s really the purpose of the class — to get kids to be better writers and more informed readers.”
But to Farmer, the most important thing was “to give the students a voice because there was a lot of things that were not right down at the school.”
Things like gangs, according to Farmer. A continuation school, Downtown High is for students that have encountered trouble in the regular school system.
“I felt that if I could get the message to them, they could tell their friends and we could start from there,” Farmer said.