By all reports, Sellman program a success

By Regina Villiers, originally published May 31, 1995 in the Suburban Life, added October 2022.

The staff of the Sellman Newsflash Includes, from left: bottom row, Paige Rorick, Greg Strong, Randy Uebel and Lauren Vink; second row, Michael Ladrlgan, Wade Lockwood, Wayne Memmott, Sara Neumann, Matt Paluta and Cassidy Platt; third row, Adam Carney, Kristen Everman, John Gunther, Acacia Janzen, Hyun Kim and Adam Korengal; top row, Craig Arkfeld, Nicole Basile, Jamie. Beyersdorfer, Jenna Brignac, Kelly Burke and Jessica Caesar.

They are the 22 fourth-graders at Sellman School in the newspaper class that Dianna Bartles and I have been teaching in the 20-day program. And it’s absolutely amazing to me what this class has done in only a few short weeks.

Like Dorothy in ”The Wizard of Oz” we started with them in the very beginning. We gave them press passes and reporter’s notebooks and started telling them about journalism. We pointed the way to them and turned them loose. They haven’t stopped since.

At the end of the third week they published their first newspaper, the Sellman Newsflash. The wrote all the stories for it, and they will print an issue every week until the end of school.

Dianna and I have had some good help from the local press and real reporters.

First, Sheila Vilvens of Suburban Life came out and talked to them. Next came Christine Wolff from the Cincinnati Enquirer to tell them about the joys and trials of being a reporter.

Though a few of them were captivated more by Sheila’s cellular phone, most of them were impressed and thrilled to hear real reporters.

Mike O’Connor from the Cincinnati Post came out next to talk to them about layout and how to write headlines, as he does for the Post. Mike has served as assistant metro editor at the Post and was on duty the night of the ill-fated Who concert where several teenagers were crushed to death in the crowd. He was able to answer the students’ questions about that night.

We’ve had other speakers come and lots of people for them to interview and to write about. People like Dr. Dennis Hockney, our superintendent, and the principals from the other schools volunteered to be interviewed by the kids and to be the subjects of stories.

The Cincinnati Enquirer sent out newspapers regularly for each of them to read and to use in all the assignments we could devise.

We’ve taught them with every resource, every ounce of power we could muster. Because our days with them were so few in the 30-day program, we’ve put the pedal to the metal. Our pace would rate in the Indy 500.

Because it is a writing class we have required them to write. Lots. They have been writing and turning in papers at a dizzying pace. If the papers aren’t good enough, they’re returned to them to be written over.

But the kids have hardly complained. It’s incredible how hard kids will work and how much they’ll learn when they enjoy what they’re doing. And that’s the secret, I think, of this entire 30-day program at Sellman.

In the second week of the class I asked them to write for me a report about the class – their feelings, what they had learned, and what they hoped to learn.

“Our press passes are cool,” Jamie Beyersdorfer wrote. “I feel like a real reporter.”

 And they are real reporters. As nearly as we can, we’re having them work and act like real reporters.

That probably prompted Hyun Kim to write in her report, “I’ve learned that working at a newspaper is hard.”

“I’ve learned to write better,” Wayne Memmott wrote. I hope that’s true. I hope all of them learn to write better.

John Gunther also. wrote about writing better. “I’ve learned how to take notes and to write better,” he said.

“I like writing and I like writing newspaper stories,” Jenna Brignac wrote. “I like interviewing people to learn more about them.”

It’s easy to see why. Jenna already writes good stories that require little or no editing.

In his report, Matt Paluta wrote, “I’d like to learn to take good notes and not to be nervous when I interview someone.”

Matt is a quiet, sensitive student with a good attitude. I have a feeling about Matt. He reminds me of another shy, sensitive, little boy I once knew who had a way with words. A boy who listened and learned and grew up to be a writer – my son. I think Matt may grow up to be a writer too. Who knows? He might win the Pulitzer.

Or any of the others might. Many of them are good writers. Sara Neumann and Paige Rorick immediately come to mind. All of them deserve to be mentioned here if there were space.

It’s clear to me that Sellman’s 30-day plan is a success. Not only are the kids in my group outstanding, but ‘I see the same enthusiasm all over the school.

It’s also clear to me that this has been a unique experience and that these 22 little journalists have me in their power.

Thanks, kids, 22 times.

Regina Villiers is a long-time resident of Madeira. She writes a column twice monthly for Suburban Life. Write to her in care of Press Community Newspapers, 9121 Union Cemetery Road, Cincinnati 45249.