Elementary school teacher Leslie Isaacs says it's easy for her to see how her students are doing as young health journalists.
"They have this light from within because they want to help the world," said Isaacs, whose students at Highland Park in Upper Darby have been part of the Healthy NewsWorks student journalism program for several years.
Now the College of Physicians of Philadelphia has added its own kudos, giving Healthy NewsWorks the 2016 Organizational Public Health Recognition Award.
"It's a great honor to receive this recognition from the College of Physicians for the work our students do in raising health awareness and understanding in their schools and communities," program director Marian Uhlman said.
She started the program with one class in one school 13 years ago, while still a reporter at the Inquirer. Since then, Healthy NewsWorks has published more than 300 health newspapers, featuring students' stories and artwork, in 28 area elementary and middle schools.
The student journalists work mostly in teams. The students have covered such topics as bullying, water quality, heart health, and savvy internet use. They have tried word games, healthy recipes, and taste tests.
During the current school year, about 300 students age 8 to 14 have served as health reporters for schools in Philadelphia, Norristown, and Upper Darby.
Enough copies are printed so every student can receive a copy and the papers can be used as classroom resources.
This year, students from two of the Healthy NewsWorks' schools, St. Martin de Porres and St. Veronica, worked with Lawrence University's KidsGive program to produce two public-service videos focusing on hand washing and the Ebola virus.
The KidsGive students raised the money for a new well for their African counterparts, and the NewsWorks students made the video to teach about water sanitation. Their work was shown to students and teachers in Sierra Leone.
Each year since 2012, the student journalists have produced a new book in a series called "Leading Healthy Change in Our Communities," interviewing more than 50 health leaders.
At a recent book-signing, Isaacs' student Gabriela Fiorentino Wong spoke about what the journalism project has meant to her.
"The Healthy NewsWorks program changed me as a student," the fourth grader said in her written speech. "I became a more successful and skillful writer."
Healthy NewsWorks is a member of the New Beginnings Non-Profit Incubator of Resources for Human Development, which offers technical assistance. Healthy NewsWorks is supported by gifts, donations, foundations, and corporations.