By Rebecca S. Jones
HOUSTON– “We are the few, intellectual and the educated; and we accept only those students who want to achieve.” Those words were recited every morning from the loud speaker, which soared across the campus of Forest Brook Senior High School when I was a student there. Although faint visions of that proud “Blue and Gold” are still visible, much of the “Blue” has been overshadowed by “Black”. The word “High” has been replaced with “Middle” on the school board and while there are many faculty and staff I do not recognize one thing still remains the same – that fervent spirit of “young intellectuals who want to achieve.”
Recently, I was privileged the opportunity to return home and what a delight it was. Not returning as a Magnet student or the Senior Class Vice President of the graduating class of 2000, but, as the Editor of African American News & Issues. As Ms. Quwanda Forest (Production) and I entered the classroom of Dr. Cheryl Banks-Jones, we were welcomed with smiles and intelligent conversation from a mixed crowd of 6-8 graders. Though the two of us were eagerly anticipating sitting down discussing journalistic styles and publication formats with our hosts’; we were overtaken by the ingenious minds who began teaching us lessons instead. (LOL)
Nelmy Y. Esparza jump- started the Journalistic conversation. “You know…nothing never really goes around like news, unless it’s something stupid-like fights and stuff. But, anything that is important like events and things that really matter never really go around. So, for the people who actually care and want to read the newspapers, they do.”
Jayla Hollins chimed in and shared how the Journalism team has been an asset in her life. “The newspaper helped me to become a better writer. Not just having the newspaper but, also having art classes because art isn’t just drawing. It can be acting, writing stories and different things that express creativity.”
The Force Behind the Pen
Dr. Cheryl Banks-Jones became a resident of Houston in 2005, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Not willing to allow her circumstance to overcome her volition, she began educating in Texas just as she had in her home state.
In past she has taught as an instructor at George Washington Carver Middle School, her graduating high school, McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School in Louisiana and La Marque Intermediate Technology Academy in La Marque. She began serving as an educator at Forest Brook Middle School in August, 2016. Although she has only been there a couple of years, she has already planted a great deal of seeds in the lives of her students. While facilitating as a History teacher, Dr. Jones saw the need to create a Journalism team for students. She was inspired by the fact that the middles school had never created a yearbook of their own. Therefore, she compiled a group of enthusiastic students and began teaching them how to format and layout a newspaper.
“It was a method of teaching them how to apply what they were learning in class,” she said. She continued, “To me, it was important getting them to read, write and do the higher order of thinking.” Since establishing the Journalism team she has noticed that it has helped to “increase students’ confidence within themselves, build self-esteem, increase test scores and has assisted with their articulation.” All of the projects of the team are student-lead. She shared, “They have an urge to give back to the community and one of those results was displayed when they went to plant trees in Stewart Park.”