Chicago's True Star Media training next generation of content creators

What started as a two-page newsletter in 2004 has blossomed into so much more. True Star Media just celebrated two decades of training the next generation of journalists and content creators.

The original goal of the youth-focused nonprofit was to help young people with their writing skills.

"When we first started it was journalism," said Na’Tae Thompson, CFO of True Star Media. "Then the young people said we want to learn photography. We want to learn how to lay out the newsletter. So we said let’s create a program where we find an industry professional to come in and work with them. We listened to the young people as we went on and that’s how we got to where we are today."

True Star encourages youth to be the authors of their own stories.

"We want young people to control the narrative of who they are," said DeAnna McLeary Sherman, Executive Director True Star Media. "Often when you look at media or social media, you often see black youth specifically portrayed as perpetrators or victims of criminal activity. But we know that is such a small, small minority of young people who doing those types of things. We know most of the youth are invested in their lives. They’re in programs. They have jobs and are good students. So, we want to give them the platform to share their story and show people who they are."

The students in the program range from as young as 14 up to 24-years old. They’re exposed to all forms of media including journalism, photography, editing, podcasting, graphic design, and they even have a digital magazine. Everything is fully run by students and they’re getting hand-on experience with industry standard equipment and software.

"The exposure to this equipment and knowing that we have it at our fingertips and knowing what we can do with it and recognizing our potential," said student Marquis Sewell. "I think that plays a big role in my confidence."

Taking un-paid internships is common practice in the media industry. It’s also a graduation requirement for many college programs. That poses an entry barrier for students who simply can’t afford that. At True Star the students are getting paid, while they continue to develop their skills.

"I learned way more here at True Star than I did at my actual college," said student Christopher Lockridge. "Not to throw dirt at my college. But True Star taught me everything that I need to know about the media industry before my college taught me. This is better than an internship because they’re preparing you for life."

This summer, True Star will employ 75 kids throughout the city of Chicago. They’re looking to raise $50,000 so they so they can empower even more youth across the city of Chicago.

Click HERE for more information on how to help them reach that goal.