Just so you know… Message from UHMP CEO

Jayne facilitates Zoom interviews at Casa Ruby shelter for LGBTQ+ youth.

It’s an understatement to say things at the Urban Health Media Project are lit.

Depending on your age, you may take that to mean we’re misbehaving. I’ve learned from the students that it actually means we’re excellent and exciting. And I’m certainly excited.  We’re growing quickly!

Nearly four years after we launched in March 2017 with a generous grant from the Kellogg Foundation, we were awarded large grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health in late December. 

RWJF is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health. For more than 45 years, RWJF has worked alongside others to ensure everyone in America has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. 

This support is critical to funding our community health journalism programs – such as our current workshop, “Home Sick,” in which 20 students from five states and Washington, D.C. are reporting on housing and health. It’s also central to growing our organization while staying true to our mission — to teach urban high school students with diverse backgrounds from under-resourced communities how to report, write and broadcast multimedia stories about the health and social issues affecting their communities and the potential solutions.  

We’re excited to be a 2020-2021 Grant Awardee of The Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health – see the announcement here that was posted Wednesday. This grant and partnership allows us to train far more high school students and create more multimedia mental health-related content about BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Miami, Philadelphia, Hartford and the other cities we’re working in. The Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health provides resources to organizations that focus on the mental health and well-being of adolescents who are of color and/or LGBTQ+ in the United States —populations that face urgent needs but often lack access to the care they need. Watch this video to hear more from Melinda Gates, Solome Tibebu and others working with the Upswing Fund to make a difference for these young people.

Four UHMP profiles of trauma survivors are on DC Line’s homepage.

These grants pay for Jeannine Hunter, a former journalist with the Washington Post and the Tennessean in Nashville, to teach our Commonwealth Fund-sponsored “Community Health Storytelling” high school curriculum, now taught in two Washington, D.C. high schools and ready to expand to others in the city and elsewhere starting this fall. It also allowed us to hire a full-time operations manager and a full-time instructor for our series of journalism workshops — Brie Zeltner, who spent 15 years covering health and poverty for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, and is our new Deputy Editor of Content and Programs.

Our now-national health journalism workshops will take place five times this year for up to 20 students each; that’s up from three workshops last year. We are paying each student a $250 stipend to participate and complete the workshop. Our fall workshop students came from six states including D.C. and emigrated from countries such as Nicaragua, Africa, Cuba, and Nepal. 

We have a new partnership with the local online publication, The DC Line, which published our inspiring local profiles of trauma survivors from our Fall 2020 workshop. You’ll learn more below about how some of our students will be teaming up with Georgetown University’s international health graduate students this spring. 

Along with dozens of articles and videos in USA Today and other Gannett publications, our students’ work has appeared in publications as varied as the Washington Informer and the Philadelphia Tribune – both Black publications–  La Voz, the Lynn, Mass.,  Spanish-language newspaper, and the consumer health site Medshadow. 

But we’re not relying only on the struggling print industry to get our content out. UHMP students are preparing for their fifth national conference panel next month to discuss some of their housing and health findings. This comes as we prepare to pitch UHMP presentations to a wide range of health and medical conferences as such events start going back to in-person later this year. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you see poster boards and video reels of our teen journalists’ work at a community center, restaurant, or school near you.

And that’s how you – well, we – prepare and promote a new generation of very diverse journalists.