Celebrating 15 Years of Kid Journalism: Why We Need Programs Like IndyKids

By Adedayo Perkovich, age 16

The mission of IndyKids is to engage young people to become informed world citizens through the production of a current events and social justice news source that is created by kids, for kids.”

When I was 9 years old, I walked into a former firehouse too nervous to speak above a whisper. Even with the soothing paper lanterns and fairy lights strung across the ceiling, shy kid that I am, I worried I didn’t have what it took to be a kid reporter. But looking back over the past seven years, I’ve realized how much IndyKids has taught me about research, and empathy in storytelling. 

My favorite part of writing an article was filling up my outline sheets with questions, or researching people I hoped to interview. The writing guides, tedious though they may have been for a younger me, made me a better student and a more engaged citizen. Even as my introverted heart beats faster every time I raise my hand in class, IndyKids instilled in me the importance of asking the who, what, when, where and why. Always why. 

In my English classes, I scribble annotations wondering whose voices I don’t get to hear in the books we read, and in class, I restate the importance of not taking a single narrative at face value, a skill I learned when all of my IndyKids mentors would push me to check every fact and examine as many sides of the story and article angles as possible. In history, I use the research skills of youth journalism to quickly create bibliographies. I choose classes and electives that actively seek to expand from standard curriculums, and expand from a cherry-picked history to one that embraces hard truths and new stories. I’ve developed as a writer, basing my claims in fact. My intent in every class is to examine policies and acts of protest as an intellectual, and as a compassionate, engaged citizen. And I owe all those practices to IndyKids and their commitment to inspiring “a passion for social justice and learning to empower the next generation of critical thinkers, community leaders, journalists and activists.”

Because of IndyKids, I stepped outside my comfort zone to meet interesting people at the forefront of social change in their communities. I remember the excitement and adrenaline I felt the first time I covered a protest, the 2013 Climate March. Taking in the crowd, trying to spot people to interview, I got to meet the legendary Amy Goodman. I was so nervous to speak with her; I was shaking. But she treated me like a serious journalist and helped me feel like my story was important. In middle school, I interviewed photographer Rick Guidotti about the powerful documentary he was screening, On Beauty. “We want to give people another way to see difference…to embrace it,” he said at the screening of On Beauty — a powerful statement that I still use to approach my art and writing. IndyKids helped me realize that even though I’m shy, my voice is unique, it has value, and I have the power to make myself heard. At 11yearsold, in a reporter profile for IndyKids, I was asked how my worldview had changed because of the program. “After working with IndyKids, I always have my eye out for a story,” I answered.

In a 2012 IndyKids interview, historian Howard Zinn emphasized the power every young person has to make history: “Great social movements start with lots of people doing small things. Join a group in your school or in your community that is working on some issue you think is important. What you do may seem small, but when these small actions merge at certain points in history, progress is made.” Programs like IndyKids push young people to be active, investigative and persistent in pursuit of social justice, and exemplify the powerful writing and people that come from a curriculum dedicated to highlighting everyone’s story. IndyKids amplifies the voices of young people, and every word published changes the writer and the world they learn in for the better.

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