Woman writing homework on paper with pencil

The Berkshire Eagle is proud to support student interest in journalism at local high schools. The Eagle collaborates with student newspapers, sends reporters to speak in classrooms and hosts school field trips to our offices.

To provide students with an outlet for their work, and bring their perspectives to the broader community, we are introducing the Community Column — hopefully, a regular feature in the newspaper presenting a short essay of up to 600 words written by a high school student.

Initially, all columns will respond to a simple prompt:

What is a problem in your community that needs more attention than it is receiving?

We welcome direct submissions from high school students and also encourage teachers in relevant courses to consider using the prompt for an assignment that will assist students in thinking about local issues and developing their expository writing skills.

The Eagle will select appropriate submissions and assign a writer or editor to work with each student to refine their essay before it reaches publication. Published writers will receive an honorarium of $100.

How schools can get involved: School administrators can help by informing teachers who, in turn, can help by sharing this opportunity with students or incorporating the assignment into their curriculum. We welcome feedback on how we can improve the project, other writing prompts we might introduce and other ways we can support efforts to prepare young people for responsible citizenship, participation in public debates and consumption of news media.

The rules …

1. Your topic is: What is a problem in your community that needs more attention than it is receiving?

2. Your assignment is to write a concise, persuasive newspaper column of up to 600 words.

3. Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, at 11:59 p.m.

4. Submit columns via email to write@berkshireeagle.com. Include your full name, school and class year at the top of the entry. Please include an email and phone number; this information will be for our editors to contact you, it will not be published.

5. Submissions must be in a readable, editable format like Microsoft Word, a Google Doc or a plain-text email. No PDFs.

6. Published writers will receive a $100 honorarium from the Local Journalism Initiative at the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

7. All students enrolled in high schools within Berkshire County, as well as in New Lebanon, Canaan and Craryville, N.Y., are eligible. Children of Berkshire Eagle employees are not eligible.

8. Your column must be your own work. You can receive feedback from others, but the ideas, tone and writing must be your own. If you want to use research findings or direct quotes from other sources, please credit them.

9. Submit only one entry per person.

10. Direct questions to write@berkshireeagle.com.

Some tips ...

1. Write an opening sentence or two that will make readers eager to continue.

2. Have a point. It’s not just a collection of your thoughts, experiences and witticisms. It’s an argument, a plea, a call for action.

3. When you make an assertion, document it with facts. Be sure to double-check them.

4. It’s OK to insert yourself in the article, especially if you’re recounting something that happened to you.

5. Avoid clichés. If you think a phrase sounds overused, it probably is.

6. After you’re satisfied with your article, read it closely one more time. You might spot something you want to change.

7. Read columns in The Eagle and other newspapers to learn how professional writers start their pieces, handle transitions between paragraphs, marshal their arguments, use quotes and research and leave readers with the sense of an ending.