Teens Tell the Story of Plymouth Community
June 8, 2012
By: Cathy Gordon
When Lonnell Shelmon found out his artwork would be featured on Plymouth Community Renewal Center’s new website, he was surprised.
“Lonnell didn’t think he could draw,” says Plymouth Executive Director Markham French. “But he’s created really good abstract art.”
Shelmon is a member of a new digital storytelling group at the Louisville, Ky., community center. The six Junior Counselors, who range in age from 13 to 19 years old, provide after-school tutoring and complete service learning projects at the center.
The Junior Counselors added storytelling to their impressive list of accomplishments when Plymouth began to design its website with the help of Signal Hill, a leadership and communications firm based in Cary, N.C.
Amid strategic communications planning with Signal Hill, Plymouth realized that if it wanted to better promote its programs and build relationships in the community, it first needed to tell its story.
Throughout the planning process, it became apparent that the center had quite a few assets that could be leveraged to help it share its story. It had experience producing a youth-driven newsletter in the past, and it had a group of passionate young people who are eager to have their voices heard today. The idea of a storytelling group was born.
“When we began imagining Plymouth’s website, we realized this bright group of teenagers could tell the stories of this organization and the Russell community better than anyone else,” says Signal Hill Account Coordinator Amanda Romano.
When completed this summer, the website will feature stories, artwork and other original contributions from the group.
“We have a lot going on, and kids need an outreach system,” says Kiera Fowler, 23, who became a Junior Counselor supervisor five years after getting involved at Plymouth. “I think once they start working with the website it will be a wonderful experience for them.”
Deara Daniels, 13, a Junior Counselor and group member says she feels honored to be included in the project.
“I felt important,” she says.
“I think this will give them a sense of pride,” French says. “It will definitely help them expand their horizons and learn a new skill.”
The group received story development and content management training from Signal Hill in April. The teens will ultimately upload their own work directly to the website and promote their stories via an e-newsletter and social media.
“I’m very excited about seeing their stories come to life,” says Romano. “I can’t wait to see these young people not only tell their own stories but master the cutting-edge technology that’s available so that they can share these stories with the world.”
Content will be edited and reviewed by Plymouth's Partners, including students at the University of Louisville.
“By being able to tell their stories on the website, they’ll be able to have a voice,” says French. “That voice can reach not just the community, but nationwide.”
French also hopes the organization, which previously had no Web presence, will be able to share its programming with a wider audience.
“There are people who tell me they didn’t know the center was still open, even though it has been around since 1917 and served countless people,” French says. “This is going to get us back out in the public.”