Partner Spotlight: Journalistic Learning Initiative

When did your organization launch and why?

The Journalistic Learning Initiative (JLI) launched in 2015 to empower students to discover their voice, improve academic outcomes, and engage in self-directed learning through project-based storytelling. 

What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?

Through participation with JLI, students learn to research, interview, write, edit, and collaborate, making them more effective communicators. We work with middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science teachers nationwide to empower more than 1,500 students since 2016 with the critical thinking and life skills to prepare them for college and careers. 

What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?

The Journalistic Learning Initiative is an education leader, providing resources to teachers and their middle and high school students with the goal of boosting the diversity of young voices and improving academic outcomes. We partner with districts and schools to bring unique, story-centered project-based learning to students in lower-income and rural communities that will enhance their life and workforce skills.

What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?

As of 2021, JLI has three projects underway: the Student Voice, a nation-wide mentoring program that allows journalism students to access journalistic experts and have their best works published nationally; the Black Student Magazine, an initiative that supports Black students with analyzing and creating their own media; and Effective Communicators, a year-long elective workforce and college preparatory course to improve students’ written and face-to-face interpersonal skills.

What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?

Many media literacy organizations focus on making students better media consumers. JLI’s emphasis is on helping students become discerning consumers and introspective content creators. JLI’s programs support students in cultivating character, competency, and confidence. Character speaks to developing an inner compass that guides one’s decisions. It’s about establishing principles and adopting boundaries that support successful navigation in the world. Competency addresses a student’s sense they can fulfill assignments. And, confidence speaks to a strengthened sense of self-esteem and purpose. Student-produced publications engage families and communities by providing an authentic audience and the experience that one’s words and images can make a difference in the world.

Why is media literacy important to your organization?

Ideological divisions and disregard for fact-based reasoning make this a critical time that may determine the future of democracy. JLI is committed to students experiencing an “ah-ha moment;” a realization that they need not be “schooled,” where they settle into passive learning. Rather, we empower students to discover “voice and choice;” the ability to emerge as self-directed learners through JLI’s research-based standards-aligned methodologies. We also support teachers in breaking free from rigid and control-based methods and policies that disenfranchise students.

Anything else you want our readers to know about your organization, your mission, or your staff?

JLI’s board and staff reflects the diversity of the students we serve. A specific area of emphasis is addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. We are committed to equity in education, social justice, and alleviating disparities that affect historically underserved students.

The views and opinions expressed in the Organizational Spotlight blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of the Organizational Spotlight blog is to highlight our Organizational Partners and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.