Manatee Messenger rivals larger newspapers

manatee messenger, featured
Melrose Elementary school displays the new edition of the Manatee Messenger.


BY DEMORRIS LEE, Pinellas County School Board

ST. PETERSBURG — Recently, the call could be heard throughout the halls of Melrose Elementary: “Extra, Extra, read all about it!”

That was the sound as students received their first copy for the year of the Manatee Messenger, the student produced school newspaper that captures life at Melrose Elementary. A press party and parade were held at the school to distribute the first edition.

Ma’liya James, a fourth-grader and a member of the schools Manatee Messenger staff documents the distribution of the first edition of the school’s paper.

Ma’liya James, a fourth-grader and a member of the schools Manatee Messenger staff documents the distribution of the first edition of the school’s paper.

The 16-page, full colored tabloid style paper features everything from a profile of new principal Nikita Read and assistant principal Nikishia Dixon, to naming the favorite kind of food of second-graders (pizza won hands down), to student-written letters to the next President of the United States.

The concept for Melrose Elementary Center for Journalism and Multimedia started in 2001 and is part of the Pinellas County Schools Journeys in Journalism program. The first Manatee Messenger was published the following year.  Other schools in the Journeys in Journalism magnet program include John Hopkins Middle School and Lakewood High School.

“I like journalism because I like to write stories and take pictures,” said Ma’liya James, a fourth-grader who is on the Messenger staff. “I like to see the kids’ beautiful smiles, and I like to see that they are learning about the new people at Melrose – students and teachers.”

As part of the journalism magnet, all Melrose Elementary scholars are introduced the importance of communications, from looking someone in the eye during a discussion to thinking critically.

“It prepares students for careers far beyond journalism and the program gives them the tools to prepare for an evolving industry,” said Gretchen Letterman, the district’s Journeys in Journalism program coordinator.

The who, what, when, where and why of journalism can translate to any subject, including science projects, Letterman added.

Melrose Elementary scholars in grades three through five are the main reporters and photographers for the Messenger. There are plans to print four editions this school year. During the school day, professional journalists sit with Melrose Elementary scholars and help guide them through the writing process.

“The scholars who go through Melrose are learning life skills that will serve them no matter what they decided to do, which is the beauty of the program,” Letterman said. “The pride they have when they see their work displayed is phenomenal.  The program helps them explore through their writing the world around them.”

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