UHMP students gain ‘eye-opening’ experience covering their first conference and new programming is on the horizon for 2022

By Brie Zeltner

Three UHMP students racked up a bevy of firsts this December when they traveled to Philadelphia with our staff for the Sozosei Foundation’s Second Annual Summit to Decriminalize Mental Illness. First time covering a conference in person. First time out of state. First time staying alone in a fancy hotel room. First time live-tweeting an event. 

Radiah Jamil, of Brooklyn, New York, Nicole Cortes of Locust Grove, Georgia and Philadelphia student Shawna James spent weeks preparing for the experience. They produced graphics and social media posts leading up to and at the conference, and each interviewed experts at the conference for a feature story they’re finishing up this month.

(left to right) Managing Editor of Content & Programs Julianne Hill, Content & Programs Assistant Editor Adrian Gibbons, and UHMP co-founder Jayne O'Donnell accompanied by student reporters Nicole Cortes, Shawna James, and Radiah Jamil.

“It was really eye-opening … us three high schoolers were here in the midst of all these professionals and people with credentials,” said Shawna, who is a sophomore at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School. 

UHMP itself has some “firsts” ahead this winter and spring, including the launch of our TikTok journalism bootcamp in February and after school collaborations with high schools in Rhode Island and Maryland. 

Here’s more on what’s coming up: 

  • Our TikTok training, co-taught by Associated Press Audience Editor Alex Connor and TikTok influencer Michael Lacey, will run Feb. 7th-18th. Students will learn to make TikTok videos on the subject of the decriminalization of mental illness for the new TikTok account we’re launching as part of our grant from the Sozosei Foundation.
  • The spring writing workshop, "A Climate of Health," will run March 14-April 23rd, and this time we'll be tackling a hugely important topic-- climate change and how it impacts the health of low-income communities of color, as well as what's being done (particularly by youth) to make a difference.  
  • We’ll be working with a small group of 11th graders at Kenwood High School in Essex, Maryland this spring, offering a variation on our community health reporting curriculum to help them improve their journalism and writing skills. 
  • We held our first-ever TikTok contest this fall for middle school students at Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts (TAPA) in Providence, Rhode Island after visiting and sharing information on the decriminalization of mental illness. We're expecting a grant soon that will allow us to combine our social media/visual journalism training with TAPA's middle school Ethnic Studies curriculum.