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A free summer seminar for experienced high school journalism advisers

From the 23 teachers who attended this workshop in July 2019, we have included Solutions Journalism Story Ideas, other Story Ideas for a whole range of topics and Tech Examples of something they learned, many of these for data visualization, plus some resources anyone can use in the future for these topics.

Solutions Journalism — student gift shop

At my school, every prom and holiday season, the school has a store, called The Whaler’s Attic, that solicits donated gifts, wrapping paper, prom dresses and so on in which students without means can come and shop.

During the Christmas season (let’s call it that because at least 98 percent of students are Christian), they can come and pick out gifts for family members and get it wrapped. During prom season, girls can come in and get a prom dress for free. All this is done one student at a time so that nobody feels embarrassed about it.

Last year, we did a preview story about it, letting students know what it is, when it was occurring and how to take advantage of it, as well as informing students and adults know how they could donate.

What we need to do is follow up to see how successful it is. To me, there are a lot of unanswered questions:

  • How many people donate?
  • What kinds of things do they donate?
  • What kinds of things are needed but don’t get donated?
  • Does demand exceed supply or vice versa?
  • How many students take advantage of it?
  • And so on.

I’m guessing that hard numbers are not kept by the organizers, but if we get involved from the start, at team of student reporters could track things throughout the process and then report on it in a later issue and/or online.

My suspicions, which are based on nothing because we don’t hear about it after it ends — just a lot of pleas for donations leading up to it — are that they really don’t get enough donations. But I really don’t know at all.

Take prom dress donations, for example. Our school has about 2,000 students. Let’s say 300 go to prom. That’s 150 potential girls who may need a dress. How many of those simply would not even consider going without the student store? And what about tuxedos? They don’t ask for donations for those, so I really don’t know what students who would want a tuxedo would do.

Anyway, this seems to hit the four areas:

  1. A clear problem and solution.
  2. Potential evidence of some level of success and/or failure for sure.
  3. People would learn how important the store is for students, whether more is needed, etc.
  4. Limitations and caveats would be apparent — items needed that aren’t donated, for example, supply/demand ratio, what about shoes to go with the dresses, and so on.
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