Threshold students, from left, Chuk Pörkka and Kyle Dalrymple are staff members of the student-run Lesley Public Post.
News is often known as “the first rough draft of history,” but two students in our Threshold Program, Kyle Dalrymple and Chuk Pörkka, are making history of their own, becoming the first Threshold students to work for the Lesley Public Post.
Associate Professor Donna Halper, an author, broadcast historian and adviser for the student newspaper, and Threshold instructor Pam Palmucci, a social worker and former television news producer, were both thrilled by the students’ interest in journalism.
“The fact that these were Threshold kids was not problematic for me at all,” says Halper, who has long advocated for expanded integration of the program’s students into more aspects of Lesley campus life. “These are two students who have really great attitudes and are really eager to participate.”
Our Threshold Program is an innovative two- to four-year transition program that prepares young people with diverse learning, developmental and intellectual disabilities for independent living and the world of work. And while students in the program are full members of our campus community, none had ever worked on the Lesley Public Post.
But then Dalrymple, 21, and Pörkka, 19, found the Journalism Club during this fall’s Student Activities Fair and decided to bring their passion for writing, news-gathering and photography to the Public Post.
“The students there were just so welcoming and kind,” says Palmucci of the other Lesley students involved with the online paper. Halper stresses that the Threshold students work on the same sort of assignments and are held to the same journalistic expectations as the group’s other reporters.
They have already sunk their teeth into a full range of coverage, from Dalrymple’s feature on an exhibit in our Lunder Arts Center’s Roberts Gallery to Pörkka’s contributions to stories about the university’s food service and mental health services, as well as his proficiency as a photographer.
“We’re a newspaper,” Halper says. “Two-year-old photos don’t do me a lot of good.”
Pörkka explains that he particularly enjoys photographing various aspects of student life, providing the paper with a fresh library of images, but also reporting to the scene to help illustrate other reporters’ stories using his camera phone. The second-year student from Scarborough, Maine, says his professional interest is graphic design, but he likes the excitement of covering news and the “business-like” relationship he has with other student journalists.
For his part, Dalrymple, of Wellesley, Massachusetts, says the writing is his favorite part of the job, adding, “I’m very proud of what I’m doing.”
And, like any journalists, they get a charge out of seeing their names in print, with Pörkka emphasizing that he’s particularly grateful to see his name spelled correctly in the photo credits.
The two students are also taking Halper’s one-credit course Writing for the Lesley Public Post, essentially a virtual newsroom that gathers Monday nights. Halper says they are excelling in the class that stresses follow-through, reliability and flexibility.
“This is a skills-based course,” she says. “This is a course based on doing.” And Dalrymple and Pörkka are doing it well.
“When you tell them what needs to be done, they are so enthusiastic,” Halper says. “I wish I had a million of them.”