VOICE wins national honor, launches new year


Taking a photo break during this fall’s semi-annual Northeast Central Durham Orientation Bus Tour, the new staff of the Durham VOICE includes, (front row, seated, left to right) Brittney Bizzell, NCCU; Palak Patel, UNC; Christina Herring, NCCU; Teen Editor-in-Chief Natasha Graham of Northern High School; Benia Johnson, Partners for Youth Opportunity; Sarah Butler, UNC; and Lindsay Carbonell, UNC; (back row, standing, left to right) visiting international scholar Li Yuan Yuan of China; Quentin Atkinson, NCCU; Jeremy Vernon, UNC; Anna Williams, UNC; Danny Nett, UNC; Justin Williams, NCCU; Evan Owens, NCCU; Eric O’Neal, NCCU; Carlton Koonce, Partners for Youth Opportunities; Rowland Givens, NCCU; Tyler Vahan, UNC; Stephanie Lamm, UNC; Lisa Paulin, NCCU publisher; and Jock Lauterer; UNC publisher. (Staff photo by Bruce “DP” dePyssler)


At the Durham VOICE, we have a motto: “little i, big WE.”

As a long-time journalist, I’ve won my fair share of awards and accolades. But honestly, those old plaques and trophies pale compared to the latest honor bestowed on the Durham VOICE.

Earlier this fall, the Durham VOICE won second place in the national College News Project competition held this year by AEJMC’s (the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication) Newspaper and Online News Division.

This is a “big WE” award.

And it’s is significant because it validates and salutes a truly organic and grassroots community effort; the VOICE represents a strategic partnership between the journalism programs at UNC-CH and NC Central, several Durham high schools, and the wonderful Durham NGO, Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO).

The winning PYO team: (Staff photo by Carlton Koonce)

In which the ol’ perfesser joins the winning PYO team: Christian Frazier, LaMon Jones, Natasha Graham, Gwen Payne and Kieara Chambers. (Staff photo by Carlton Koonce)

I want you to see the happy faces of the urban youth from central Durham who helped make that mark of journalistic excellence. They are our teen interns from the Durham NGO, Partners for Youth Opportunity, and they are the ones who really give our newspaper its…well…its authentic local voice.

A shout-out to (l-r) Christian Frazier, LaMon Jones, Natasha Graham, Gwen Payne and Kieara Chambers. And especially to PYO Teen Mentoring Coordinator Carlton Koonce who made this photo at their “graduation” held at Mama Dips in Chapel Hill earlier this fall.

And thanks again to UNC-CH Prof Andy Bechtel for walking the VOICE through the AEJMC competition process. Without Andy, this honor would never have come the way of these great kids.

Finally, we lift up our partners at N.C. Central University, founding co-publishers and professors D.P. dePyssler and Lisa Paulin, both of who have been on board with the VOICE from the get-go back in ’08. To our knowledge, our cross-cultural academic partnership is unique among the nation’s colleges and universities.

In Their Own Words

At the end of the summer, when their one-year internship with the VOICE was winding down, we asked our PYO interns to reflect on their experience. Here is what several of them wrote.

LaMon Jones:    Being with the Durham VOICE was an overall good experience. I learned how to hold a camera and take my own photos properly and then how to edit those same photos to get them ready for print or online or even for Facebook.

The photo editing as well as what I learned about organizing thoughts, understanding the order in which I put my words, are two things I learned this year that I can take with me in just about any future job.


Kieara Chambers: The VOICE has taught and helped me to freely express myself    using paper, a pencil and a camera. Writing for the newspaper has also helped me with time management. With better time management I have also learned better ways to prepare myself for anything I encounter.


Natasha Graham:    I’ve learned that everyone has a story and it is important to interact with the people around you. You never know, you may become inspired by this person’s story. I’ve learned that when the interview is done, you will take away something more than just another news story.


Introducing Our New Teen Editor-in-Chief

Our new teen editor-in-chief, Natasha Graham, a senior at Northern High School behind the wheel. (Staff photo by Jock Lauterer)

Our new teen editor-in-chief, Natasha Graham, a senior at Northern High School behind the wheel. (Staff photo by Jock Lauterer)


Turns out that journalism isn’t the only thing we’re teaching at the VOICE.

With the uncertainty over the public school driver’s education program, how many of our urban youth may be falling through the cracks?

How well I remember the anxiety of learning to drive, and how my dear mother — for all her good intentions — was not emotionally equipped to teach me how to drive. In short, when we hit the road, my clunky and erratic driving freaked her out. The task fell to my aging grandmother, who kindly stepped up to the plate, in spite of her advanced years.

So when Natasha Graham, our in-coming teen editor-in-chief, asked for my help, how could I refuse?

Last Saturday as Northern High School senior gingerly steered up and down, back and forth, across the abandoned student parking lot at Northern High School, I couldn’t help but remark on that gift my old “Grammie” gave me.

Now it was my turn. Just as someday it will be Natasha’s turn. Pay it forward.

Onward and upward.