The National Newspaper Association announced last week that The St. Louis American has won its coveted 2013 first place award, among all non-daily newspapers in the United States, for its Newspaper In Education (NIE) program.

The award coincides with this week’s launch of the second academic year of The American’s NIE program, which will be expanded dramatically to include a new page, more schools, more classrooms and additional districts.

The American’s award was part of the National Newspaper Association’s (NNA’s) annual Newspaper And Education contest, which highlights newspaper/school partnerships that focus on developing fully informed citizens, and the category was centered around “traditional newspaper in education stories and curriculum.”

NNA is the largest newspaper association in the country, with more than 2,200 member newspapers nationwide.

The American’s NIE program began last year, providing newspapers free to more than 5,000 elementary school students in the Normandy and Saint Louis Public Schools districts.  A key component of the program in its first year was the kids page specifically focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) literacy. The STEM page was designed as a classroom tool for students and teachers. Children were encouraged to take the paper home to share with their parents, along with the entire newspaper.

According to the judges, The American’s NIE program is “a well-though-out, well-articulated program that reaped big benefits … for the community it serves. It embodies a ‘go big or go home’ (approach) that can be unusual for any new endeavor.” 

Judges also stated, “This newspaper set a very high standard and attained it, and used it as a baseline for not only keeping the program, but fully supporting it with a full-time coordinator. Well done.”

The judges were seconded by one of the first executive administrators to embrace the program.

“Providing students with a 21st Century education requires a focus on the STEM subject areas,” said Dr. Kelvin Adams, superintendent of Saint Louis Public Schools. 

“The commitment of The St. Louis American to create the STEM pages for the young people of St. Louis is to be commended. The St. Louis American STEM pages gave students in Saint Louis Public Schools a real hands-on approach to studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Seeing their faces light up when The St. Louis American newspapers were delivered to their classrooms was priceless.”

The program is funded, in-part, through corporate sponsors: Ameren, Centene, Emerson, Monsanto and World Wide Technology, as well as the St. Louis American Foundation.

According to David Steward, chairman of participating sponsor World Wide Technology, “It is imperative for kids to learn STEM education at a young age, for St. Louis, for the economy and quite frankly for our business.” Steward added, “This program has been a great return on our investment.”

St. Louis American publisher Donald M. Suggs stated the staff was thrilled with the award and that the entire team was excited about not only a successful first year, but about the future of its unique, targeted NIE program.

“This national recognition is a testament to the hard work and true dedication to educating our youth of everyone involved in our NIE program,” Suggs stated. 

Suggs cited the American’s NIE team members: Dawn Kitchell, Beth Sharpe, Jennifer Wirthwein, Kevin Jones, Cathy Sewell and photographer Wiley Price, as well as the strong support from participating teachers and principals.

“We want to help open the minds of these young people to their great potential,” Suggs said. “We are excited about growing the program, starting this week, and want to touch and positively affect as many young lives as well as assist as many area teachers and parents as we can.”

Expansion of the program 

Because of the widespread acceptance and extremely positive response to the first year of the program, The St. Louis American is expanding its NIE program in several ways:

  • Immediately including other school districts, including Ferguson-Florissant and Hazelwood
  • Increasing the number of students and classrooms. During the 2013-2014 academic year, more than 6,000 students in more than 250 classrooms will receive a free newspaper each week, making The American’s program the largest free, print NIE program in the entire state of Missouri.
  • Adding a “Healthy Kids” page, which will focus on wellness, nutrition, exercise and safety for elementary school children. The page will also feature a profile of a local African-American health care provider (in various functions) each and every week. (BJC Health Care and Ascension Health Care are partnering on this page).
  • Solidifying community partnerships with the Saint Louis Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo and Missouri Botanical Garden (including their providing NIE content, field trips, as well as professional development for select participating teachers).

"For true enlightenment, transformative empowerment and total engagement of students, there is no better Newspaper in Education program around,” stated Dr. Art McCoy, Superintendent of Ferguson-Florissant School District, which is joining the program this week.

“Ferguson-Florissant School District is proud to partner with the St. Louis American's NIE program. We salute you for this award and excellent educational program.”

To coordinate the expansion as well as manage the entire Newspaper In Education program, in June The St. Louis American hired Cathy Sewell as its full-time NIE Manager. Sewell has more than 20 years in NIE programming, including most recently at the Post-Dispatch for eight years, and at the Belleville News-Democrat for more than 12 years. 

She has previously been honored for excellence by the NNA as well as the World Association of Newspapers. Her many speaking engagements include a conference in Prague, Czech Republic, where she spoke to other industry experts about the importance of using the newspaper in the classroom to increase literacy skills.

For more information about The St. Louis American’s Newspaper In Education program, visit stlamerican.com and click on ‘Newspaper In Education’ or email nie@stlamerican.com.  All kids’ pages as well as an E-Edition of the entire newspaper are also completely complimentary online at stlamerican.com.

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