Simpson Street Free Press
The Simpson Street Free Press is a community newspaper written entirely by middle and high school students. It is gaining recognition throughout Dane County as one of the area's best youth programs. Young people who enter the Free Press program acquire essential vocational and academic skills. They learn the basics: writing, reading, research skills, critical thinking, and using computers. Students develop precisely the sort of skills they need to do well in school, get into college, and get good jobs. The Free Press has a strong track record of preparing students for college, and all four of their seniors received college scholarships for this fall.
Perhaps even more important is the growing impact these young writers have on their peers. The teen staff members of the Simpson Street Free Press are role models in the truest sense of the term. Drugs and alcohol, school violence, and a minority achievement gap are part of life for young people in Madison. Free Press teens lead their peers in a different direction. They effectively spread their message of achievement throughout Madison and Dane County. It's a clear message: drugs, alcohol, and smoking are bad; history, science, and community service are cool. It reaches kids because it's written by kids. Free Press writers are effective role models because they are real and because they are local. They seem "just like us" to kids who read the paper.
The Simpson Street Free Press continues to expand dramatically. They recently hired eight new teen staff writers and hosted four additional summer guest writers. Circulation is 22,000 and growing. Young readers can pick it up at hundreds of locations throughout the Madison area, including all Madison schools. The Simpson Street Free Press now prints more pages, more often, and reach more young readers than ever before.