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Teen Takeover a treasure at YDR

The Teen Takeover staff meets once a month in the YDR conference room. (Exception: When it's really nice outside, we head outdoors.)
One night a month, I really love my job. Don’t get me wrong, I like what I do just about every day of the week (not many people can say their employer encourages them to check Facebook and Twitter often). But what I really look forward to, and what really encourages me as a journalist, is when the Teen Takeover staff meets.

The staff, comprised of about 25 York County teenagers and also led by Matt Eyer and Leigh Zaleski, is kind of a hidden gem in the newsroom. Sure, it only meets once a month, but the teens’ creativity and hard work is apparent every day. Here are just a few reasons why the staff is a treasure at YDR:

1. The teens are enveloped in everything digital.
We talk about being a Digital First newsroom; they live Digital First every day. At one meeting, I asked the teens if they Facebooked or tweeted. Not really, they told me, those sites are old news. They tumble. Not, you know, gymnastic tumbling. They stalk their friends and get ideas from Tumblr, another social networking site. After I looked into it, I realized they were onto something; we set the staff up with a Tumblr account and started tracking their statistics on Google Analytics. Yes, we take their digital thoughts pretty seriously, because they are the future of media.

2. They’re on top of trends — not just digital ones. Maddie Nesbitt blogs on fashion every Friday. Gabe Ryan blogs on the latest Apple news. Annie Kurz, Willow Pinkerton and Olivia Purtell spotlight theater and dance in the area.

3. They’re a forum for other York County teens — and they represent our community. We have teens on staff who live in downtown York, Delta, New Freedom, West York, and Spring Grove. We have teens on staff who are home-schooled and teens who attend public school, private school and charter school. TT teens come from a variety of backgrounds, which provides the staff with a wide range of diversity to talk about issues at home, school or in the community. One example is Erin O’Neill’s recent blog post, “Unemployed, underage and upset,” which begs York County employers to consider her for a job, considering she’s only a few months away from turning 16. Another example is Gabe’s “What’s with the DMV?” about getting a cold shoulder after taking his driver’s test. TT teens are also very involved in the community — they star in and attend concerts, dances, <a href="plays and musicals; they play sports at school and in leagues; they participate in community game nights; and even compete in the state spelling bee. I trust them when they say the community could use this or that to improve.

4. The teens are some of the best and brightest in York County. In order to be accepted on staff, teens must first apply, including two samples of writing, two letters of recommendation that cannot be family and a list of three stories they would like to read in the Teen Takeover section. It’s like a college application, minus an SAT score. Matt, Leigh and I review all applications and pick the most talented, creative and highly recommended teens within a few days.

5. TT teens provide content at no charge for YDR. At a time when newspapers are trying to save and trim costs, a staff such as Teen Takeover seems invaluable. They write for the Living section (and even the Local section during the York Fair), they blog and they post Tumblr updates without payment. We see their hard work and reward them with an ice cream cake each year, a parting gift for seniors, and $10 gift cards for blogging and meeting deadline each month. Overall though, it’s a small price to pay for such active contributors.

If you know of any York County teens who might be interested in joining next year’s staff, please let them know we are recruiting through May 31. Click here for application details.

And if you know of any teens who are currently on staff, please tell them how much they’re appreciated. They make me proud just about every day.