NIE program peaks student interest in current news topics

By Lesley Jenkins
Star staff
ljenkins@starhq.com
As part of a national program to educate students about current news topics, a program called Newspapers in Education has filtered into newsrooms across the country. Many young people are simply uninterested in today's breaking news, and the initiative seeks to peak the interest of students in immediate news events so that they aren't learning about them in history books 10 years later.
Judy Thompson, NIE director for the Star, said, "The NIE program supplies newspapers for schools to have as a learning tool for their reading program and writing program." The Star's NIE program is one of few programs in the nation that includes a writing program.
All Carter County and city of Elizabethton schools participate in the monthly essay writing contest. Thompson selects a topic from state writing curriculums that is age appropriate for grade 1-12 students.
A winner is chosen by Lifestyles Editor Rozella Hardin. The winning essay and a photograph are published in a school supplement. The enticing perk of winning the essay contest is a $50 savings bond, donated from AmSouth Bank, Elizabethton.
The NIE program has been active for over five years. Thompson assumed the director's role in 2000 and credits the success of the program to local businesses that sponsor a classroom each year.
Each sponsorship costs $37.50 to place the daily newspaper into one classroom for an entire year. NIE now places 90 copies of the Star in each county and city school each week.
Through business donations, Thompson has a small amount of money left each year which she uses to purchase a cake for a school each month from NIE. During the past basketball season, when the Elizabethton High School's boys basketball team won the regional title, NIE bought a celebratory cake for the team.
NIE also provides for guest speakers in schools, like NFL player and Elizabethton native, Jason Witten.
Tours of the Star are another perk that many students enjoy because it gives them a chance to learn how newspapers are printed.
Supporters of the NIE are constantly brainstorming for new ideas to keep children interested in the news. In the near future, six students from the six area high schools will be chosen by teachers to participate in a student published section of the Star. The publication will feature stories written by the students that are directed to their age group.
For more information regarding the NIE program or if you would like to sponsor a classroom, please contact Thompson at 542-4151.