Prime Movers Media Gains Traction

August 2, 2012
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Prime Movers Media, the nation’s first journalism mentorship program to focus on urban schools, is exceeding expectations thanks to power partnerships with top multi-media organizations.

Housed in Columbian College’s School of Media and Public Affairs, the program sends journalists and GW student interns into 10 underserved high schools to teach critical thinking, writing, and technical skills. Program director Dorothy Gilliam, an award-winning columnist for The Washington Post and former J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Fellow at GW, created the program eight years ago in collaboration with the university. Other organizations providing funding and mentorship support include National Public Radio, Thompson Reuters, Widmeyer Communications, and The White House Correspondents’ Association, which showcased a video about the program during this year’s annual gala.

The year-end work of the high school students participating in Prime Movers Media was recently presented at a celebration at the Jack Morton Auditorium. The event drew a distinguished panel of guests, including Ed Henry of Fox News, Carol Lee of The Wall Street Journal, Bill Press of “The Bill Press Show,” and Jared Rizzi of Sirius XM. During the celebration, students took part in an interactive seminar on presidential campaign advertising.

“It’s all about the relationships,” noted Washington Post reporter  Hamil Harris in describing the bond between student and mentor. “Changing hearts one student at a time, we can make a difference.”

Harris has been a mentor in D.C.’s Ballou High School, helping students create a video news piece using donated equipment. “Working with these young people, educating them in the face of overwhelming odds, is an honor,” said Harris. “Seeing the video a student made on the screen, I felt such a sense of pride. ”

Ballou students also got a rare behind-the-scenes look at a press briefing with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, and toured the White House media center thanks to Michael Scherer of Time magazine.

Laura Hardwick, a political communication major and former reporter for her high school newspaper, served as a student mentor at Banneker Academic High School. She worked with school librarian Kathleen Brinkman to help students produce their newspaper, Train of Thought.

“As a freshman hearing about Prime Movers Media, I remember thinking how cool it was that the School of Media and Public Affairs was connected to such a great program,” said Hardwick.  “I knew I wanted to get involved.”

High school students not only pick up valuable skills through their participation in the program, they are often inspired to study journalism in college. In a recent survey, 43 percent of Prime Movers Media participants said they are considering a career in media.

This fall, DC high schools will begin implementing a comprehensive, multimedia journalism curriculum, culminating an initiative begun five years ago by Prime Movers Media. GW has agreed to waive one journalism course for any high school student who completes the program and enrolls at the university to study journalism and mass communication.