Last year, Grizzlies Prep received the Governor's Seal Civics Grant to start a middle school civics program.
This Civics grant recognizes schools prioritizing teaching our nation’s history. The grant lasted only a year but allowed Grizzlies Prep to incorporate a civics curriculum and purchase resources for a lifetime of learning. Students can dive deeper into the civil rights movement, politics, the Constitution, and more with these textbooks and resources.
Austin Young spearheaded and wrote the grant for Grizzlies Prep. Through Teach For America, Young was placed at Grizzlies Prep and is going on his fourth year teaching there. He not only teaches the Civic Enrichment class for high-achieving 7th graders but also coaches the championship-winning debate team, which earned 1st place at the final county-wide tournament this year.
The debate team has now represented Memphis at the Urban Debate League Middle School Nationals three years in a row.
“What's so great about civics is it covers everything," Austin Young said. “My job is to be a value add to the school.”
Young is a big believer in hands-on learning inside of the classroom. The young men of Grizzlies Prep were learning about the media, and what better way to learn than become the voice for the school.
Thus, Grizz Top Drops, the school's very first newspaper, is born.
The students took on the role of “government watchdogs” and reported about issues that interested them through their commentary. Articles range from “2000’s Shoe Comebacks” to more featured writing pieces like “Income Inequality: Luxuries of the Ultra-Wealthy.”
Each student received individualized attention with Young and was able to develop their writing skills throughout the year. The civics class attempts to push students beyond grade level by challenging them to employ critical thinking about public issues that affect all of us.
“Grizz Top Drops” is a total of eight pages of riveting stories of today, opinion pieces, album reviews, and investigative journalism. I, personally, couldn’t put it down. So much so that we paid a visit to Grizzlies Prep to interview these up-and-coming journalists.
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Jaxon Brooks, a 7th-grade Civics student and promising journalist, wrote the article "Starbucks Fights their Workers Efforts to Unionize."
When asked why he felt this was important, Jaxon said, “It was important because the workers were being treated unjustly.”
As a diligent journalist, Jaxon cited his sources from Eater.com. “I enjoyed writing the story, and this class made me want to continue to write,” Jaxon said.
“Jaxon has a really good eye for justice and justice issues. He wants everyone to have an equal space regardless of background," Young noted.
Check out Jaxon's article below:
Next, we sat down with Langston Brown, who wrote one of my personal favorites titled "7th graders deserve a bathroom."
This investigative piece dove into the reasoning behind the closing of the 7th-grade bathrooms. And why it seems teachers are suspiciously being seen going in and out.
After the newspaper was released, the article was so persuasive and alluring that the bathrooms were reopened! A significant win for the Grizz Prep 7th graders.
Langston said his favorite part of the investigative process was “asking people questions. The teachers gave more informative answers, while students gave more general ones.”
Read Langston's article below:
These are just two articles from the creative minds that make up Young’s class and Grizzlies Prep. More publications are to come, and we’ll be sure to share the most alluring.
The civics class and newspaper project has inspired other staff members—in both the current events course and technology elective, students recorded a mock student news.