Chalkbeat is launching a Student Voices essay-writing fellowship

If you’re a high school student in Chicago, Newark, or Philadelphia, here’s what to know and how to apply.  

In a First Person essay published last school year, Samantha Charles, then a 10th grader in New York City, described walking through metal detectors every day at school. In another piece, Brianna Moore, of Gary, Indiana, wrote about how she managed to graduate high school this spring with an associate degree

Recent student pieces have also detailed what it’s like to be in high school when you’re in foster care. Or when you’re homeless and trying to hide that fact from your friends. Or as a Black Lives Matter organizer on the day of the Capitol insurrection. Or as a Vietnamese-American student during a surge in anti-Asian hate. These are students saying: This is who I am. This is what it looks like from where I sit, and this is what it feels like. This is why it matters. 

Chalkbeat’s First Person essay series is thrilled to expand its paid writing opportunities for students. This school year, we’re launching the Student Voices fellowship program for high school students who want to write and publish essays about their own educational journey. We’re piloting the semester-long fellowships in three communities where we have bureaus: Chicago, Newark, and Philadelphia.

We know student stories have a lot to teach us. 

These stories matter because, in the words of the contemporary poet Sean Thomas Dougherty, “right now there is someone/Out there with a wound in the exact shape of your words.” They matter, the writers tell us, because metal detectors make even middle schoolers “feel like criminals when we were just headed to school.” Because earning college credits while in high school puts low-income students on the path to a bachelor’s degree. Because children in foster care can thrive with the right academic support. 

In their telling, those who can relate to the writers’ experiences may feel a little less alone. Those who cannot relate may develop new empathy and understanding. 

Personal stories connect us to one another, and they push us to grow. 

If you attend a public high school or a public charter high school in Chicago, Newark, or Philadelphia, here’s more information about the fellowship opportunity, how to know if it’s right for you, and the online application.  

The application deadline has been extended to Friday, September 17 at 11:59 p.m. ET. 

Fellows will receive a $1,000 stipend.

Fellowship requirements:

  • You are a high school student in Chicago, Newark, or Philadelphia with interests in journalism and storytelling. (Please note: In Philadelphia, fellowships are limited to members of The Bullhorn News, a citywide student-run newspaper.)
  • You have strong writing ability, an interest in education, and the ability to manage your time and meet deadlines. (Student journalism and previous publication experience are a plus.)
  • You have compelling personal stories to share and are willing and able to share them on Chalkbeat under your byline. (First Person does not publish anonymous or pseudonymous pieces.)
  • You are collaborative and eager for feedback on your writing. 

What you’ll do:

  • Pitch, write, edit, publish and promote First Person essays.
  • Learn from experienced storytellers what makes a strong personal narrative and how to turn your own experiences into publication-ready pieces.
  • Work closely with experienced journalists, and become an integral part of a dynamic, diverse newsroom.
  • Improve your storytelling ability across formats and platforms.

The fellowship will be virtual, with opportunities to meet with staff members in the respective bureau depending on COVID guidance.

Again, applications are due Friday, September 17 at 11:59 p.m. ET. 

About Chalkbeat:

Chalkbeat is the nonprofit news organization committed to covering one of America’s most important stories: the effort to improve schools for all children, especially those who have historically lacked access to quality education. We are mission-driven journalists who believe that an independent local press is vital to ensuring that education improves. Currently in eight locations and growing, we seek to provide deep local coverage of education policy and practice that informs decisions and actions, leading to better schools. Read more about our mission and values. We are committed to a diverse newsroom. Read our antiracism statement.

About First Person:

Chalkbeat’s First Person series highlights the voices of those inside American public schools or working to shape them. In addition to these fellowship opportunities, we will continue to publish essays by teachers, counselors, school leaders and staff, parents, and students across the country. We pay $100 per published piece. Please read our submission guidelines, and then send your pitch or draft essay to

If you’re having trouble viewing the application on a mobile device, go here.