Since our program began in 2011, we’ve welcomed international students, with applicants from Pakistan, Vietnam, Singapore and the United Kingdom. We’ve also taken our program overseas in order to help other students begin the journey that we call journalism. We look forward to more such opportunities in the future as growing economies open the door to American-style journalism and innovation in digital information.

Below is a description of our recent trip to Vietnam, which was also profiled in the Dow Jones News Fund Adviser Update (Summer 2012).

NBTB by the Red River
United Nations International School
Ha Noi, Vietnam
April 3-8, 2012

UNIS students, along with school librarian Joyce Miller (left) and English teacher Thomas Houterman (center) prepare for classes on journalism reporting and writing by NBTB Co-directors Paul Kandell and Beatrice Motamedi (at right). Photo by Andrew Wiener.

What’s your untold story? That was the theme of a week-long series of presentations, classes, workshops and professional development seminars that we conducted during April 2012 at the United Nations International School in Hanoi.

Hanoi’s Temple of Literature is one of many sacred and historic sites in Vietnam’s capital, a city of 2.6 million. Photo by Beatrice Motamedi.

The Hanoi poet Huu Thinh’s observation that “there are so many untold stories” in Vietnam was our springboard for an intensive week-long discussion of how journalism can help UNIS to prepare its students to be both critical thinkers and global citizens. One of only two UN schools in the world, UNIS has an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, representing 66 nationalities and 44 language groups.

From left to right: Core group members discuss what to title their new student website. The school’s new mascot — the phoenix — gave rise to several potential names, including The Phoenix Call, The Phoenix Chronicles, and The Phoenix Flame. Photo by Beatrice Motamedi.

During our visit, we helped UNIS to launch a new School Newspapers Online student news website, tentatively called The Flame. We also worked intensively with new adviser Jackson Garland and a dozen “core group” students to report their first-ever stories, along with organizing their new newsroom and discussing what leadership roles they will play. Other topics included rights and responsibilities under the U.S. model of student journalism, in which students have legal rights to self-expression and free speech.

The 6th grade newspaper’s editor in chief, Nozima Burkhanova, 11, of Uzbekistan, keeps track of proposed names for her publication during a discussion with NBTB. Photo by Beatrice Motamedi.

Finally, we met with the 6th grade editors of a middle school paper, now named The Spark. We also conducted seminars with faculty and administrators, including intensive discussions on when to launch a new journalism class, and how to embed journalism standards throughout UNIS’ curriculum, which includes capstone projects in the 10th grade and an intensive International Baccalaureate program during the 11th and 12th grades.

School librarian Joyce Miller, the driving force behind the push to launch a new student publication, says that journalism is a two-way street — a way of explaining current events by challenging students to report them.

NBTB Co-directors Beatrice Motamedi and Paul Kandell (at left) with UNIS Librarian Joyce Miller.

“I really think it’s important that people are informed about what’s going on in our world, and I didn’t really feel like students at our school were really aware of what was going on in the news,” says Miller. “And as I thought about it more, I thought that one of the best ways to get them involved in reading news and being consumers of news is to actually be producers of news.  So that if they were able to take what they know is deep in their heart, and express that (on) a platform that allows people from around the world to see what they’re thinking, it becomes a two-way street — that they’re both producers and consumers.”

Jackson Garland, who will be taking on the role of adviser to the new student website, said that the intensive training that faculty and students received has jump started journalism at UNIS.

“Paul and Beatrice’s visit to UNIS Hanoi was excellent,” Garland wrote in an email. “The program they offered to both the core group of students involved with starting a regular student newspaper and the extension lessons they held with many different English classes across grade levels were both informative and inspirational. They were able to adapt their program as necessary to fit the needs of the school and the students, and helped impart a great message about the importance of student journalism.

“Our students have taken this inspiration and run with it, and we are well on the way to establishing a solid student journalism program at UNIS Hanoi.”

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