A new school encourages children from low-income households to become journalists

Jul 10, 2024 | News

The founder of UK’s first major Black Children’s Magazine has now opened a Journalism School that champions creativity and diversity

The Notting Hill Carnival, which is held every month, will feature a team of young journalists, some as young as five years old.

Students of the Cocoa School of Journalism and Creative Arts (which opened in April) will be recording videos and conducting interviews, as well as writing articles. All of these articles will be published in Cocoa Girl & Cocoa Boy, UK’s first Black Children’s Magazines.

“We want to give these children real life experiences.” Serlina Boyd, the woman behind these projects, explains that they give children “real briefs”. “I was told to keep my head down, not to talk too much and to remember that I was the ‘other’ when I was a child. Now, a new generation wants to show the world their talents, and we give them the platform to achieve this .”

The first after-school club classes were held during the Easter holiday, with three days of creative writing, magazine creation, and graphic design. Boyd says that 30 students between the ages of five and seventeen were taught to write their stories without using any technology, including iPads or phones. “Just beautiful handwritten stories,” Boyd said. “When parents listened to the stories the children wrote, they were blown-away,” Boyd says.

The school, located in Beckenham in south London, launched its second course, a weekly session on Sundays, in May. This course explores the intersection between fashion design and journalism. In the summer, more classes will be held where students will design costumes for dancers to wear in the Notting Hill Carnival Parade.

Tickets for the workshops cost PS25 each, but funded places are available for families with low incomes thanks to Boyd’s’sponsor-a-place’ scheme, which he runs on LinkedIn.

Serlina Boyd: “We want to give these children real life experiences.”

She explains that “all we do is done without funding.” We’ve received donations from people. We put out a LinkedIn post asking if anyone wanted to sponsor a kid. But we don’t want to wait until the money is available. We want to get started now. These children love it .”

Boyd sees it as a natural extension to her work with Cocoa Girl. The project began in 2020, when Faith, her daughter, was 10 years old. She was shocked to discover that there were no magazines that celebrated her culture after a trip to the grocery store to purchase a magazine. , the latest industry statistics, revealed that 94% of UK magazine editors are white. Cocoa Boy was launched a few months after.

“I thought: ‘Surely there’s something’. Boyd told Positive News that there was nothing. “So, I chose to make it our Covid project. I gave [Faith] an lolly to hold, and we photographed our front cover photo – which went viral.”

Cocoa Girl was launched in 2020, as a “Covid project”. The first issue was sold in 11,000 copies

Cocoa Boy and the subsequent editions of the first issue have been distributed to families and schools across the UK. The team has also conducted 20 free journalism and creative writing workshops in schools in order to improve literacy skills and encourage those from underrepresented backgrounds consider a career in journalism.

Children are still the driving force. Faith is still the editor-in chief of the magazine and young people put every issue together, whether it’s putting in design or interviewing like The Little Mermaid’s Halle Bailey or UK’s first Black woman MP Diane Abbott.

When the parents listened to the children’s writing, they were blown out of the water.

The magazine also touches on current affairs. The team stopped the press of the latest edition to include a tribute for Daniel Anjorin. is the 14-year old who died in an attack on east London in April.

Boyd is proud of an article about vitiligo – a condition in which pigment is lost on certain areas of skin – that a young reader thought was helpful. “She said that she read our magazine about vitiligo and now she knows the condition. There’s a student in her class who has it, and she will be kind to her.”

Boyd wants to emphasize that Cocoa is for everyone. She explains that Cocoa isn’t just about Black stories. “It is about hearing everyone’s stories .”

Three things I hope for, by Serlina boyd

1. Fresh confidence

My daughter’s generation is saying: “No, I will speak up.” I will do whatever it takes to make a difference .’

2. A subject in Vogue

Cocoa has influenced other massive brands. We created a [bubble-ponytail] hairstyle for our front cover, which had never been done before. Two months later, Vogue did exactly the same hairstyle.

3. The joy of learning

Parents have never seen their children so happy. Children say they are eager to learn. They are doing it during their holidays and come back voluntarily. This is what makes me happy.

Main Image: SeventyFour/iStock

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