Tyson Gift of $250,000 Gives College and Career Experience to High School Students

Students participating in the Lemke Journalism Project learn from coaches and mentors.
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Students participating in the Lemke Journalism Project learn from coaches and mentors.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – When high school students enroll in the Lemke Journalism Project at the University of Arkansas — a program in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences — they are introduced to a world of possibilities. The experience of writing journalistic stories, interviewing sources, learning about multimedia and producing a newspaper with fellow students shows high school students they are capable of “doing college” and becoming successful in their chosen careers, journalism or otherwise.

A $250,000 gift from the Tyson Foods Foundation means this program is here to stay. Approaching its 10th year, the Lemke Journalism Project attracts sophomore, junior and senior high school students who are interested in writing about multicultural issues in northwest Arkansas. Primarily populated by Hispanic students, historically, the program has had participants from a variety of cultural backgrounds, including Marshallese, African American and Caucasian.

“The increasing diversity of northwest Arkansas makes this program very important to our community and its evolving culture,” said Archie Schaffer III, Tyson’s executive vice president of corporate affairs. “The Lemke Journalism Project will make a lasting contribution to improve journalism in the region as well as multicultural understanding. We at Tyson are pleased to be able to provide financial stability to the program.”

Throughout the program, which runs for six Saturdays each spring, students learn about journalism from professionals who work in the field, called coaches, and from Fulbright College faculty members, called mentors.

“We realize not all students who come through this program will become, or even want to become, journalists,” said Katherine Shurlds, director of the Lemke Journalism Project and instructor of journalism in the Fulbright College. “We are educating media consumers. We want them to value accuracy in the stories they read. They should always ‘consider the source’.”

Though not all participants have plans to major in journalism when they enter college, eight students have become journalism majors at the University of Arkansas, thanks in large part to their involvement in the project.

“For many of our students, being on campus in academic buildings, using college-level technology, being a part of producing a complete publication, having their work and their name in print … it makes them realize they are capable,” said Shurlds. “It provides a great sense of accomplishment.”

The shoe-string budget that has kept this program alive on a year-to-year basis is now secure. However, Shurlds plans to continue operating the program on a restricted budget, allowing the generosity of the Tyson Foods Foundation to stretch even further. In addition to general program support, the gift will allow project participants to earn scholarship money should they choose to attend the University of Arkansas and major in journalism — an added incentive for students who may not have considered attending college in the past.

“The Lemke Journalism Project is a service we provide to the community,” said Dale Carpenter, chair of the Walter J. Lemke department of journalism. “We are proud it is recognized as being worthy of this level of support, and it is a relief to know our foundation for the program is now secure.”

The program also receives annual support from The Morning News, now a part of the Northwest Arkansas Newspapers, which prints and distributes the Lemke Journalism Project’s newspaper, The Multicultural News, for free.


Danielle Strickland, director of development communications
University Relations
479-575-7346, strick@uark.edu


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