A Mighty Initiative For Philly Teens

04/12/2013 11:18 am ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013

Check out the Might Post Update by Deputy Editor Mike Sanders

The Deputy Editors of the Mighty Post, a blogging site for Philadelphia's youth that launched in early February, arrive at their headquarters in South Street, a Mecca of shops and eateries, for their weekly Monday meetings.

They begin brainstorming ideas to write for future posts. Prom, politics, and education are only a few topics that these young journalists choose to voice their concerns about.

"I think this goes for everyone," Matt Rinaldi, 17 said. "I want to write about something that I'm interested in. I mean it's kind of hard to write about something that you're not interested in or you don't have a lot to say about."

Rinaldi, a student at Science and Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, first heard about The Mighty Post from his English teacher who thought he would be a good fit for the online publication.

His beat at the Mighty Post revolves around covering news concerning technology and video games, two topics that he is most passionate about.

"Of course I look towards video games because I want to enjoy what I do for the rest of my life," he said. "I thought about it more on the career aspect when I do it. It seems like a great job to just be a video-game journalist."

Rinaldi said it was only recently he found an interest in writing. After joining the Mighty Post, he found that he was a pretty decent writer.

"I guess video games is just one of those topics where I have a lot to talk about," he said.

The Mighty Post is a publication of the Philadelphia nonprofit, Mighty Writers, where the goal is to teach Philadelphia youth how "to think and write with clarity, so self-esteem grows and success is achieved at school, at work and in life."

The organization was launched in 2009 by Tim Whitaker, executive director, and has since been able to branch into different areas of the media, like blogs, in order to get student messages across.

"There really isn't a good student voice in Philadelphia, I think that was another core piece from the beginning," said David Williams, director of new media programs. "It was originally from Tim and Maggie Leyman's perspective, It was a lot of things, but I think the main thing was when they started talking to students when we were first getting off the ground with Mighty Writers. Some of their writings would appear in newspapers and students just didn't seem to care."

The fact that the adults were more excited than the students and that was one of the first indications that Tim and Developmental Director Leyman noticed, that there was a different type of media that the students seemed to be interested in, Williams said.

That idea expanded into what would eventually become the working model for the Mighty Post. Though the deputy editors are students from different schools who are interested in journalism, there are other students who act as contributors to the blogging platform.

Students are free to write about any topic that they feel are affecting them or their peers in some way. Deputy Editor Alexus Hill, a student at Simon Gratz High School in North Philadelphia, feels that it's a breath of fresh air to be able to voice her opinions and concerns on topics that she cares about and being able to add her input into the community.

"I've always been a fan of writing," Hill, 17 said. "I started writing stories and poetry when I was in the third grade. I grew up on print; my father read the newspaper all the time and every time he was done with it he would just show me an article and I'd read about it, maybe write about it. So I've always been a fan of print."

Regarding her beat of education and politics, Hill likes a challenge and that she can really look into the topic in so many ways. "I feel like as long as there is always an opportunity for me I'm always going to take it in the journalism field."

This summer, Mighty Writers is opening a third site in West Philadelphia.

"It's perfect. It sits on a big, easy-to-get-to corner," Whitaker said in a recent email that he sent out to supporters of Mighty Writers. "There are lots of nearby city schools, which means lots of Mighty kids. And it's close to Drexel and Penn, assuring us lots of volunteers."

To support their expansion into West Philadelphia, we need to raise $200,000 by June 1. An aggressive goal, but Whitaker points out that the Mighty Writers mission is an urgent one.

"Literacy is in crisis. The high school dropout rate in Philadelphia hovers between forty and fifty percent," he said. "The system is broken. It's just not acceptable. Learning to express oneself through writing boosts grades and motivation. Most impressive, though, is what it does for self-esteem. We see what writing does for kids every day at Mighty Writers. Personalities brighten; attitudes transform."