The journalism program at Greenwood Community High School was once on the verge of collapse.
When Denise Roberts was called on to resuscitate the program 27 years ago, it had 12 students. Roberts had a vision of what the paper could be, but she had to raise it up.
“We were one of the first schools in the state that had a website and we had to code it around ’95, ’96. Back then we had four computers and we just started building and building,” she said. “We went to state and national journalism conventions, kids got internships. Anytime there was an opportunity for kids, we did that.”
The program has grown to include 115 students who take classes in broadcast journalism, newspaper and yearbook, Roberts said. The student-run Timberlines newspaper consistently achieves national recognition. Last year, the newspaper was the only Indiana school honored in the first-place category by Quill and Scroll, an organization dedicated to highlighting scholastic journalism.
Now, students will be able to use their interest in journalism to help them graduate.
Greenwood schools administrators successfully applied to have journalism included as a Civic Arts pathway for students to take towards graduation. Greater Clark County Schools created the larger pathway to give students an option to graduate outside the typical academic honors diploma, particularly if they weren’t interested in career and technical education.
As part of the pathway, which is available starting this fall, students will take a journalism introduction class, followed by at least two years in broadcasting, yearbook or newspaper. Along with the locally created journalism pathway, the school district has also adopted the rest of the Civic Arts pathway, and those offerings, which include not only journalism but visual arts, choir and band, involve 439 students, said Lisa Laug, college and career director at Greenwood Community High School.
The pathway may help students discover a love for journalism that turns into a career, said Elijah Poe, a senior and editor of Timberlines.
“I think it’s a great pathway. Look where I started. I picked it up and through four years I’m almost planning a career from it,” Poe said.
Center Grove, Franklin and Edinburgh schools do not have any localized pathways, instead opting for Indiana Department of Education-created pathways, which cover career and technical education, as well as science, technology, engineering and math.
Indian Creek High School and Whiteland Community High School both went through the process required to adopt Greater Clark County Schools’ locally-created Civic Arts pathway. For Indian Creek High School, that includes band, choir and visual art, while at Whiteland High School, their Fine Arts and Communications pathway includes visual arts, instrumental music, vocal music, and radio and TV.
The process included outlining which classes students would take as part of those disciplines and establishing community partnerships, said Amber Burton, Indian Creek High School counselor.
“We have to have local partnerships for the portfolios students create, and students have connections outside the school,” Burton said. “Our choir directors are partnered with the Apple Works down the road. In the fall, kids can do concerts at Apple Works in order to have community partnerships.”
About 150 students are enrolled in Indian Creek High School’s band, choir and fine arts classes, said Luke Skobel, the school’s principal.
“Arts are important. The most inherent thing in the arts is creativity, which will serve kids well down the road with whatever their future occupation is, whether it’s in the arts or not,” Skobel said. “Creativity and problem solving, no matter what job you’re in, is paramount.”
At Clark-Pleasant schools, about 500 students, or about a quarter of Whiteland Community High Schools’ population, is involved with band, choir or visual arts. The Civic Arts pathway is important for students who are interested in creative pursuits and now, won’t have to take a career and technical education pathway just to graduate, said Duke Lines, assistant principal at the school.
“For students who don’t find themselves interested in (career and technical education), it’s on us to make sure we’re offering choices to all our students,” Lines said.
At Indian Creek High School, students who take part in band have already started on their pathway, said Amy Heavilin, the school’s band director who sequenced the classes for the school’s Civic Arts pathway.
“I know students have not always been able to continue in band because graduation requirements precluded them from taking credits they wanted to take,” Heavilin said. “A lot of kids will find this an easier way to stay in fine arts.”