About a dozen children are spread out at tables in the Simpson Street Free Press newsroom. They chat while poring over reference books and old issues of National Geographic to research stories. They jot down notes on large yellow pads.
Nancy GarduAo, a bright teenager whose immigrant parents have an elementary school education, is reading a book. She says she dreams of attending UCLA or Duke after she graduates from high school. She has already applied for more than 20 college scholarships and received a few of them. GarduÃo, 17, has been working at Simpson Street since she was 8 years old and says she struggled in school — especially with writing — before that.
“It really stinks when you’re stuck on a math problem and your friends can just go to their parents and ask for help, whereas I would have to wake up early and ride my bike to school to go talk to my teacher or something,” GarduÃo says.
Simpson Street became the place where GarduÃo could work on her writing, get help with homework and learn how to search for scholarships.
“I know my parents can’t afford it, which is why I didn’t even think I was going to go to college,” GarduÃo says. “But after getting some of those scholarships, it’s looking more realistic now.”
Simpson Street Free Press has been teaching kids to write and report for more than 20 years. The award-winning program started in a room at the Broadway-Simpson Street neighborhood center before moving across the street in 1996 to South Towne Mall. Over the years it has added more newsrooms and diversified its programming. Later this month it will launch Falk Free Press, its fourth newspaper, along with its first bilingual edition, La Prenza Libre de Simpson Street.