Student Voices: All about our teen fellowship

High school students learn journalism basics and publish their work on Chalkbeat.

A black background with text bubbles all around. In the middle are the words Student Voices Fellowship.
(Lauren Bryant/Chalkbeat)

In an essay for Chalkbeat, Chicago Student Voices fellow Ajibola Junaid took on common misconceptions about where she lives and learns. “Think my South Side high school is a ‘bad school’?” she challenged readers. “Think again.”

Dashawn Sheffield, another fellow, wrote about how his struggles with grief and depression during COVID inspired him to create a class about mental health at his Newark, New Jersey, high school. “I wanted to develop something that would help me feel better and empower others,” he wrote.

Since Chalkbeat launched its paid essay-writing fellowship in 2021, participants have also explored the immigrant student experience from multiple angles, opened up about facing racism and Islamophobia at school, and told us about the joys of embracing who they are.

Their perceptive, poignant, and profoundly hopeful essays show readers what it means to be a teenager today. These pieces expose inequities, challenge ideas about students and schools, foster empathy and understanding, and celebrate the power of community.

Student perspectives should inform debates about schools and education policy, and Chalkbeat is committed to showcasing them on our site. (Our student essays have also appeared in The New York Daily News, The Chicago Sun-Times, El Diario, Crain’s New York, and the Newark Star-Ledger, among other publications.)

Since this fellowship marks the first time many teens are publishing their work, Chalkbeat provides guidance and support throughout the writing and editing process. Student fellows participate in workshops to learn journalism fundamentals and hear from guest speakers.

Student fellows receive a $1,000 stipend.

You can read much more student work here.

You can learn more about our student fellows, past and present, below:

2023-24 fellows (NYC and Newark)

2022-23 fellows (NYC and Newark)

2021-22 fellows (Chicago, Newark, and Philadelphia)

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Student Voices Fellow, our next round of applications opens in August.

This program has been made possible by a generous grant from the Pinkerton Foundation. If you are interested in bringing Student Voices to your community or have any questions not answered here, please email gbirkner@chalkbeat.org.

Fellowship requirements:

  • You attend a public or charter high school in New York City or Newark, New Jersey.
  • You are interested in journalism and storytelling.
  • You have compelling personal stories to share and are willing and able to publish them on Chalkbeat under your byline. (We do not run anonymous or pseudonymous pieces.)
  • You can manage your time, meet deadlines, and commit 1-2 hours a week to this extracurricular fellowship during the fall or spring semester.
  • You are collaborative and eager for feedback on your writing.

Student Voices fellows will:

  • Publish two personal essays on Chalkbeat.
  • Workshop your pieces alongside Chalkbeat journalists and writing coaches.
  • Attend Zoom sessions with Chalkbeat staff, journalism educators, and guest speakers about the craft of reporting and writing, among other topics.
  • Learn to improve your storytelling ability across formats and platforms, including audio.

About Chalkbeat:

Chalkbeat is a 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 a quality education. We are mission-driven journalists who believe that an independent 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 here. We are committed to a diverse newsroom. Read our antiracism statement here.

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