From one school to another: Journalism students work with Poudre School District

A group of Colorado State University journalism students recently found themselves walking down memory lane when they entered the halls of middle and elementary schools in the Poudre School District.

Michelle Ancell, an instructor in the Department of Journalism and Media Communication, sent her students in JTC 351 to schools throughout the school district last spring to provide some coverage of events taking place within the schools.

Ancell used to work in the communications offices of the Cherry Creek School District and Aurora Public Schools, and that gave her an understanding of the obstacles that schools face.

“When you have a staff of five employees trying to cover 50 schools, it becomes a challenge to get out there and make sure every school is being recognized.” said Ancell. “I know that is a problem with school districts, so that is where I got this idea for a project.”

Ancell reached out to Danielle Clark, executive director of communications for the Poudre School District, about a year ago with the idea of getting her journalism class exposure to real-world public relations. Clark was thrilled about the possible opportunity for coverage and the extra help.

“Trying to find resources to cover stories that are not district-wide can be difficult,” said Clark. “But the schools find value in those events and the community, so we thought this would be a great way to amp up our resources and cover these type of stories.”

Clark and Ancell assigned each student a school and turned them loose.

Mutually beneficial

While CSU students were helping provide some coverage for different elementary and middle schools within the PSD, the journalism students were gaining some valuable experience.

Lena Ham, a senior in the Department of Journalism and Media Communications, enjoyed her trip down memory lane when she visited Bethke Elementary School for Dr. Seuss day.

“The event I covered was so great because the kids were dressed up and excited,” said Ham. “But this was also our first authentic taste of getting real-world experience by working with the school districts and principals, and having to conduct an interview and take photos. We were on our own and that was a new experience.”

The school published the students’ stories in various venues, from newsletters to websites.