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Pulitzer Center Update August 12, 2010

Stories from Chicago Youth on Food Insecurity, Homophobia and Foster Care

Media file: freespirit.jpg

This summer the Pulitzer Center launched a collaboration with Free Spirit Media, an inspiring organization that provides education, access, and opportunityin media production to urban youthin Chicago's West and South sides.

The six-week program, run by Free Spirit, was an opportunity for the Pulitzer Center to introduce the global issues we cover to a new audience, and to extend the impact of our reporting through the voices of Chicago youth who brought the exploration to the local level, connecting the global to the local and becoming a critical part of raising awareness of issues that affect us all.

Free Spirit first surveyed the students they work with during the school year at Powerhouse High and Westinghouse High to choose the three Pulitzer Center Gateway topics that would be most interesting to them. The students chose Food Insecurity, Women and Children in Crisis, and Glass Closet (an exploration of homophobia and its impact on HIV AIDS). 15 students were selected by FreeSpirit to participate in the intensive documentary production program. They then split into three groups, based on the topics they were most interested in covering locally.

The summer program kicked-off with the journalists from the Center introducing the international topics they had covered to the group. Lisa Armstrong and Andre Lambertson talked about their work on women and children in Haiti and child soldiers in Liberia. Sharon Schmickle shared her experiences covering Food Insecurity issues in Kenya and beyond, and Lisa Biagiotti talked about her reporting on homophobia in Jamaica.

The journalists then teamed up with their groups to think about how these issues could be explored locally. Over the course of the six weeks, they, and other representatives from the Center--including myself--worked with them as they developed their documentaries.

Last Friday, we had the opportunity to attend the final showcase of their work. The students produced some terrific work and we're honored to feature their documentaries as part of the Gateways on our site. Their work truly brings these global issues home and with such great spirit and insight!

The Glass Closet group wanted to get the opinion of community members, parents, and students on how they feel about homophobia inside of homes and Chicago Public Schools. They found that LGBTQ students are afraid to expose their sexual orientations because they are afraid their parents and their schools can't accept them. This video is featured as part of the HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean Gateway.

The Food Insecurity team explored healthy vs. unhealthy food choices, and why unhealthy food costs more in the long run. The students found that people often spend a fortune on unhealthy foods that will feed the family for a limited time. They explore people's opinions on food, barriers to getting healthy food, and other options for buying locally grown produce. This video is featured as part of the Pulitzer Center's Food Insecurity Gateway.

The Women and Children in Crisis team felt that people should be more aware of what foster care children go through. By making this documentary, the filmmakers hope to spread the word about this issue, and to change the way people feel about the foster care system. This video is featured as part of the Women and Children in Crisis Gateway.

The Pulitzer Center, and our team of journalists, are truly honored to have been part of making these videos happen. The students faced a lot of challenges producing them along the way and they surmounted all obstacles with grace and humor. They are now part of a global conversation on these critical issues, and we look forward to helping bring these videos to a wide-audience as part of our own commitment to raising awareness of these critical issues.

Huge thanks to FreeSpririt Media, our journalists, and the fantastic team of students who produced this work!