As we continue the countdown to the official launch of our consulting projects for our newest cohort of grantees, we invite you to get to know our grantees better (both old and new)! Next up a Q&A featuring Claire Parker of The Paper Project, one of our newest grantees.

Cesar Chavez Public Charter School Student participates in The Paper Project

Cesar Chavez Public Charter School student participates in The Paper Project

Describe your professional background and current job.

I am a high school student at Woodrow Wilson High School in Tenleytown.

Tell us about your program that received support from DCSIP: what does your program do and what are its goals?

The Paper Project is a program I started in my sophomore year. We launch student newspapers and mentor students through journalism at DC public middle schools. We aim to help students find their voices, become more engaged in their communities, and learn to harness the power of words.

What accomplishments has your program made so far?

In the spring of 2013, we started a student newspaper, The Eagle, at Cesar Chavez Prep Public Charter School in Columbia Heights. We’ve worked with over 35 students to publish eight issues of The Eagle over the past two years. We’ve seen our students become better writers and photographers in the process. We’ve developed community partnerships with neighborhood businesses like Pete’s Pizza, and received grants and recognition from organizations like DoSomething.org, Youth Service America, The Student Voice Project, and now, DC Social Innovation Project.

Any specific success story of a participant in your program that you’d like to share?

When we began working with our student Shayna in the spring of 2013, she was a shy seventh grader who was nervous about expressing her opinions and projecting her voice on to paper. Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen her grow into a mature, confident, opinionated ninth grader who is always eager to take on new projects and share her wisdom about life and middle school through her writing. She has become a leader among her peers, and she will serve as our Senior Editor for The Eagle this year.

So many people see a problem in their community but don’t do anything about it; what motivated you to actually do something?

I’ve been interested in journalism since I was in elementary school. I joined the student newspaper at Wilson my freshman year, and it was such a great experience for me. It gave me a community, a way to get my writing out into the world and improve every month, and a way to spur change in and engage with many aspects of my school. So when I heard at the beginning of my sophomore year that very few DC public schools have student newspapers, I was shocked and disappointed. I began thinking about ways I could change that. From there, starting The Paper Project was sort of a natural thing; student journalism was something I cared about and was interested in, I knew the DC public school system pretty well, and I’d seen other teenagers take action and start successful community initiatives, so why not start this?

What did winning the early support from DCSIP mean to you personally?

Winning the early support from DCSIP validated what I had done with The Paper Project so far, and encouraged me to continue my efforts to make the program sustainable and eventually expand it to other schools. It meant so much to me that DCSIP took me and The Paper Project seriously, and was willing to believe in and support a project run by high school students.

What impact did DCSIP and the support you received have on your program? Did it help attract more resources or help your program grow in some way?

Our relationship with DCSIP just started, but already DCSIP has begun to help me plan for the future of The Paper Project. I’m confident that with DCSIP’s support and guidance, The Paper Project can become a sustainable program implemented at more than one DC middle school.

Read more about The Paper Project here and visit them on their website.