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Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Library of Congress

At the end of last week, readers hopefully noticed a profile of James McCune Smith, the first black medical doctor in the United States. It appeared on page A9 of the Feb. 2 edition, and was posted online at auburnpub.com.

The profile was the first of eight scheduled to run over these next two months at part of The Newspapers in Education program.

NIE, which is supported by generous donations from our readers and businesses in the area, provides print and e-edition subscriptions to The Citizen and digital subscriptions to auburnpub.com for classrooms in the Cayuga County-area.

Dozens of teachers use these subscriptions as teaching tools for their students. By giving students access to our reporting and writing on local, state, national and global current events, NIE is encouraging civic engagement and developing reading skills.

In addition the day-to-day coverage that NIE students can follow, we try to provide some content targeted to the study of history, and that's where the James McCune Smith profile comes in. His profile was one of four that will run in February in conjunction with Black History Month. Coming up, with initial publication each Friday, are features on abolitionist Frederick Douglass, sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis and pioneering congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.

The profiles will continue in March, which is designated as Women's History Month. The planned subjects for that series are publisher and suffragist Amelia Jenks Bloomer, union organizer Kate Mullany, World War I Army nurse Jane Delano and publisher Katharine Graham.

All of these people were pioneers in some way, and their impacts were felt nationwide and in some cases around the world. But another commonality among them is that each had a New York roots, with several having strong connections to the central and Finger Lakes regions.

I've read through all of these, and I can tell you they're well-written and engaging not just for students, but for anyone with some interest in New York state and American history.

These features are made available by the New York News Publishers Association, which does an incredible job supporting the efforts of the state's daily newspapers to engage young readers. (Full disclosure, I am a board member for the NYNPA).

In addition to these and other NIE content features, the association also has an online publishing platform for students that I'd encourage teachers and parents to check out and share with their children. Called Young Voices of New York, the site allows students to write about things that interest them and have them published. They also get to work with an editor who provides ideas, feedback and guidance. If you think you have a writer or two in your family, visit yvnewyork.com and see if it might be a good fit.

Executive editor Jeremy Boyer’s column appears Thursdays in The Citizen and he can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or jeremy.boyer@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer

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