Superior High School and the University of Wisconsin-Superior kicked off a joint journalism enterprise this year.
The first piece to come from the Catlin Connection was published in the Dec. 12 edition of the UWS student newspaper, the Promethean. It focused on a national story that dominated headlines: the looming impeachment of President Donald Trump.
The same piece, tweaked and expanded as the story evolves, is expected to run in the January edition of the Spartan Spin, the SHS student newspaper.
Student editors from the publications worked in tandem to interpret and explain the impeachment process and its impact on young people. It was, said SHS language arts teacher Andy Wolfe, a good way to start the collaboration.
The idea to connect students from the two schools was proposed by Tom Hansen, a senior lecturer on journalism at UWS and advisor of the Promethean.
“I’m certainly impressed with the journalism training they’re doing at the high school,” Hansen said, and he saw a lot of crossover with SHS alumni attending UWS. Hansen thought that might provide opportunities to share photos and stories between the schools.
The partnership would still be in the planning stages, however, if it weren’t for UWS junior Michael Michelizzi. The English education major, who is also editor-in-chief of the Promethean, needed to complete 15 hours of field placement work in an English classroom. He ended up in Wolfe’s.
“This was a complete accident,” said Wolfe, journalism advisor for the Spartan Spin. “I usually never take on (student) teachers.”
Michelizzi provided the needed spark.
“He does a fabulous job with the Promethean,” Hansen said, particularly in recruiting staff and sparking interest in the paper. “When I heard that he landed in Andy’s class, I thought that was fantastic, and that was just a natural connection between the two schools and really the two newspapers.”
Michelizzi, who was a student editor at Proctor High School before graduating in 2017, is passionate about news. He’s helped grow the Promethean staff and doubled production this year to two papers a month. The SHS connection opens another door.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone to collaborate,” Michelizzi said. “I learned a ton of things from them, because they know a whole lot of stuff that I don’t know. I’d like to think they learned things from me.”
Since his first day at SHS on Nov. 18, Michelizzi has brought Promethean staff to the high school for a joint meeting and worked a few days each week with the Spartan Spin students.
Hurdles like Thanksgiving break, snow days and student trips proved challenging, as well as the different print schedules — the Spin publishes four times a year, the Promethean publishes twice a month. But Michelizzi and SHS students Chase Colby and Dale Summerfield Jr. persevered and brought their piece to print.
“It was a learning process for us,” Michelizzi said.
He was impressed with the work SHS students put into the Spartan Spin, and said he sees many similarities between journalists at the schools, including a sense of pride when they see people reading their work.
The Promethean editor has spent twice as many hours in the SHS classroom as were required. He plans to continue collaborating with Spartan Spin students over the next semester while focusing on the Promethean’s 100th anniversary edition.
“If Michael wants to keep coming, we’ll keep finding things,” Wolfe said. “I think it will be fun to see where it goes semester by semester.”