Early College High School and Teen Scene Celebrate Successful Partnership

Tomorrows Voices Today

Gerald Decker

Tomorrow’s Voices Today

Jan Morgan-Swegle, Editor

Early College High School and Teen Scene Celebrate Successful Partnership

“Thank  you for the magic…” Principal Says


Many years ago, Hilary Clinton quoted an old African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Children need to be exposed to as many new experiences as they can be in order to grow and be mentally stimulated.   And, while children need a strong “home base,” to feel safe and loved, they also need the attention of different kinds of people with diverse skill sets and outlooks on life in order to be a part of a bigger world.

When Gerald Decker started Teen Scene in Alabama many years ago,  it was, in part, because of his own educational journey through middle and high school.  It was a journey that was not without many bumps in the road.

The purpose of Teen Scene is to improve not only the writing skills of our students, but increase their confidence, leadership skills and teach them basic business skills so they are prepared for success once they enter the working world.  Writing is a key element to almost every job one can have and if our children aren’t doing it well, they will be left behind.

Gerald moved here 6 years ago in 2016, but only started the paper two years ago in June,  2020.  He initially worked with Leland Middle School to teach the students how to improve their writing and grammar skills and then reached out to Early College High School about partnering with Teen Scene to form a Journalism Club.  He found an advocate in the school’s principal, Ms. Denise Absher.  Like Gerald, she knew that writing was a key element for success and welcomed the Teen Scene Journalism program to her school.

Speaking about the program and now, the Early College Journalism Club, Ms. Absher said, “Before Teen Scene, we didn’t have a journalism program or a club.  I want to thank you for the magic the Teen Scene program brought to us.  It has allowed our students to find their passion in writing and become excited about high school.  They are not only writing well, but I see them becoming leaders in other areas and classes.  They have visible confidence in themselves.  They have learned how to collaborate.”

According to Ms. Absher, Laura Askue, the Early College English/Journalism teacher, deserves much of the credit; she said, “Kudo’s to Miss Askue, for all of her efforts.  This year our key words are, “empowerment and enlightenment,” and Miss Askew does a great job of empowering her students.  In turn, these students are enlightening our community about our goals and opportunities.  They are examples of what we can accomplish. I am proud to say that Teen Scene is a partner of ours.”

Laura Askue, who was the  Leland area VFW Teacher of the Year for 2021, said this about our partnership.  “I wanted a journalism program at my school for a very long time, but wasn’t sure there was the interest, and I was sure that we didn’t have the resources to get it off the ground. Gerald Decker solved the hardest problems in starting a journalism program and allowed us the freedom to just focus on the love of writing and publishing so that we could find the passion foothold we needed.  We appreciate that more than you know.”

Laura continued, “He also put us in touch with incredible resources of his incredibly talented social network of  retired people who have the skills and time to give our students real life education from the publishing world.  Our students have benefitted from meeting people in the Cape Fear Voices network.  I see so much potential for workshops and other learning experiences from working with this group.  I hope that other schools realize the value of the learning potential that is out there with Teen Scene and in the Cape Fear Voices community in Brunswick County.”

Like Ms. Absher, Ms. Askue has seen a very positive change in the students in the Journalism Club.  She said, “They want their voices out there.  They are becoming more confident about writing for an audience.  They are proud of what they are doing and they want to share their voices.  I want to start a Journalism Honor Society this year to recognize and reward the hard work the students have done.  They are becoming strong, critical thinkers.”

Two of the Journalism Club members shared their thoughts about how Teen Scene and being involved in the Journalism Club has helped them.  Karleigh Quinn, who was recognized by Teen Scene last year for her work in poetry, said, “The program has helped me with public presentations.  I have more confidence in myself now.  After college, I plan to go into Nursing.”  Samantha Becker said, “Being in the Journalism Club and a part of Teen Scene has given me the opportunity to express myself through writing.  It also helped with my confidence level and my grades have improved in some of my other classes.  I want to go into Mortuary Science after college which requires analytical writing. Most of my family is in the medical field.  I want to do something that I love and help people through difficult times.”

In order to ensure that our teen writers are being heard, two of them sit on the Teen Scene Advisory Board and attend meetings that shape the future of the entire paper.  Margie Steve, a senior this year, has contributed her voice and her stories to Teen Scene for two years.  She was a presenter at the Cape Fear Voices/Teen Scene Awards Banquet in March.  Margie also did some paid freelance writing for the paper along with two other students and continues to write for Teen Scene.

Nathanial Brown, who is sophomore at ECHS is also on the Advisory Board for Teen Scene and took over as the Lead Layout Designer of the entire paper in July.  This is a paid position that relies on Nathanial’s computer skills, design esthetic and attention to detail to make the paper what it is.  Nathanial also writes for Teen Scene and has contributed some community related stories to Cape Fear Voices.

It does take a village to raise a well-rounded, confident child.  It also takes hard work and dedication from our educators and a desire to make our children better than we are in order for them to be successful.   Thank you, Ms. Absher and Ms. Askue for letting Teen Scene be part of your village.