By Kate Lawless
The Road Home Program Manager Dominique Christian is beginning her next project: adding magazine work to her repertoire of local advocacy. Christian recently secured $100,000 in funding from the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) to create a youth-focused magazine that employs, mentors and empowers teens in their interest in journalism and multimedia projects.
“We have to be more creative as adults to find ways to engage with the youth. So I thought to myself, what better way than a youth magazine?” says Christian.
After receiving a federal grant of $18.9 million, MMSD requested program proposals from staff and the community, allocating $9.5 million to the Big Ideas campaign. Some of the funds will be used to update classrooms and school resources, but the rest went to the Big Ideas campaign to support endeavors like Christian’s magazine.
After a competitive application process, Christian was one of only a few individuals asked to give a three-minute pitch of their idea and succeeded in securing the $100,000 grant that she will use to create a magazine to “give exposure to Black youth specifically, and youth from marginalized communities and expose them to different professions that are out there in the world.”
The magazine will cover entertainment, arts, music and fashion, and give teens the opportunity to interview and be interviewed to promote the talents of Madison youth. Christian also wants to connect with schools and local businesses to relate magazine content back to coursework, youth employment and community resources.
Well before receiving funding, Christian had already started doing research by surveying Madison-area youth on what they would be interested in reading about.
“Before I wanted to move forward with this idea of a magazine, I needed to figure out a way to get the youth voice involved … I wondered if this would be sustainable, and if so, what topics are the youth interested in?” says Christian.
Christian also sent the survey to kids who are currently serving time in juvenile correction centers to make sure their needs and interests would be served.
“I think that for me as an adult working within that system and having experienced that juvenile system … it’s important for us that we not ignore that they still have a voice … and that the crime they committed as a child should not indebt them to society for the rest of their lives,” says Christian.
The survey found that not only are Madison’s youth interested in a magazine, but they’re interested in cultivating and finding resources that connect them to the community.
“[Respondents] were extremely interested in community resources, especially when it came to housing, jobs … stuff surrounding birth control, STDs or STIs,” says Christian.
Christian cites a disconnect between personal networks and larger community networks as the reason teens are so interested in these resources. While they may have access to community support and events, they just don’t know enough about them to take advantage.
“I really want to make sure the youth are involved in the community, but also that the community goes to the youth so that they can know we are here for them,” says Christian.
And Christian is firm that she wants to provide paid opportunities within the publication.
“I never want any youth in our community to provide any work for free. This money is going to go toward me being able to financially support the youth, and efforts to combat our growing youth homelessness population.” says Christian. “Their time and their abilities, all of those things are worthy. And so you pay the youth for the service they are going to be giving.”
And not only does she intend to pay her staff, Christian also hopes to provide mentorship to these students from local professionals, to train them and hone their talents in all areas of magazine work.
“I want to use the magazine to expose them to the world of journalism and what it means to learn how to code and utilize a computer, and financial literacy and all of those things, but to also show the Madison area that yes, we do have some youth that engage in harmful activity, but we also have youth that are doing amazing things in our community and in our schools.”