By Harold Goldberg
During the course of the last six weeks, the New York Videogame Critics Circle, in partnership with the DreamYard Project, has been teaching a daily journalism course in the Bronx to over 20 high school students.
The Circle has been mentoring students at the DreamYard Prep School for years now. We offer them paid internships and scholarships to college. But this summer marked the first time we have used our education skills on a daily basis. Imad Khan, a Circle member who has written for ESPN.com and The Washington Post, taught the course along with Bronx High School of Business educator Stephanelli Romano. Rudy Blanco, the director of entrepreneurship at the Project, was a driving force as well. And, of course, we want to thank the students. Everyone’s input was absolutely essential to the project.
Students went on field trips to everything from the Paley Center to the Game Developers of Color Expo. Every week, and sometimes twice weekly, speakers of note made the trek to the Bronx to lend their professional expertise to these teen learners.
One of the speaker highlights was Simon Ramsey from Rockstar Games, who talked about his pathway from a surfer and journalist in Australia to vice president of communications for the lauded company that makes the Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto series. Ramsey spoke to the class about the many potential roles for a writer’s skills in the games industry, working with the press, the need for women and people of color in the world of games, E3, the careful process making of trailers, dealing with griefers online and, finally, the great importance of learning to write well.
Other excellent speakers who mentored during the semester included ESPN’s Arda Ocal, Jemellee “Jempanada” Santos, community manager from Private Division, and Elizabeth Ballou, freelance journalist and adventure game maker.
We held a potent cyber bullying in games panel along with breakout sessions that led students to consider how to deal with those who seek to attack gamers and others online.
Representatives from the New York City Mayor’s Office and the Henry Street Settlement visited the class to see the curriculum in action. They loved what they saw.
Yes, our daily journalism class was a success. But there’s much more for us to learn regarding the best ways to serve students. What works? What doesn’t? What kinds of articles should students write? How should success be judged? And that’s just the beginning of the questions we’ll ask.
As summer turns in to fall, all of us will continue to re-imagine the curricula just as we rewrite our stories — to burnish them, to polish them, to make them the best they can be.
Journalist/author Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and the New York Game Awards.