UB, Southwestern HS forge a newsletter link


At Baltimore's Southwestern High School, the staff and students are excited about a new six-page newsletter called Tiger Talk.

Tiger Talk was developed with the help of students from UB's Yale Gordon Publications Design Program.

The student publication, the first at Southwestern in years, includes student opinion polls, movie reviews, and articles about visiting politicians among other things.

The newsletter, perhaps the most visible result of the school's partnership with the University of Baltimore, published only twice last school year. But there are bigger plans for the future.

"We started a newspaper class, which is primarily responsible for generating articles and helping out with the newsletter," says Dr. David Benson, Southwestern's principal. "There is a lot of interest among the students."

A student newsletter may seem to be a small thing for a high school to be excited about, but at Southwestern the good news often comes in small doses.

In recent years the school's freshman class has averaged between 500 and 550 students, Dr. Benson says. But four years later, the graduating class numbers between 100 and 120.

"Every year we only seem to be able to get half of the ninth graders to go into the 10th grade," Dr. Benson says.

But there is hope that the partnership with UB will be one of the things that help Southwestern turn the tide.

In addition to the newsletter, the UB partnership brings law students to Southwestern to teach a class about some of the everyday applications of the law. Dr. Benson says that about 50 students took part in that program last year.

"There is a real need to break the law down to clients who don't understand the complexities," Dr. Benson says. "So this class helps both our students and those at UB."

The partnership also allows UB students to serve as mentors to their Southwestern counterparts. The mentoring culminated for Southwestern students last spring with a trip to UB.

There, the high schoolers sat in on classes, met university administrators, participated in a legal dialogue and held a round-table discussion with university students and faculty.

"We're hoping that some of this will make a difference in our dropout statistics," Dr. Benson says. "Our students benefited just by seeing people take an interest in them."

The partnership between the two schools has existed for about five years. Initially, it only involved allowing Southwestern's staff to attend UB tuition-free. There were no programs for students.

That changed last year, when the partnership was expanded under the leadership of the university's interim provost, Dr. Jerome S. Paige, when the university's admissions and career development offices gave workshops on financial aid, resume writing and the submission of job and college applications.

"It would be unconscionable to write these kids off because they have yet to perform academically," Mr. Paige explained in a UB newsletter. "Many of them have potential and could one day be college graduates. But when you consider that only 20 percent of them will earn high school diplomas, our first challenge is to encourage them to stay in high school long enough to graduate."

"I really think these things will make a difference," Dr. Benson says. "If we did nothing but continue to refine the projects we have in place, they will help the students' self esteem. And that should help their school performance."

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