Unleashed is the Yakima Herald-Republic’s youth section – written by and for teens, even though we’ve found many generations read it regularly.

The team consists of high school reporters, photographers, videographers and artists from the Yakima valley, and even as far north as Ellensburg and Kittitas. Students work with a team of other high school students and Yakima Herald-Republic staff to learn the elements of journalism and have their work published in print and online.

The program began in 1999, but was discontinued in 2009 due to budget cuts. Unleashed was resurrected in 2009 when the Yakima Herald-Republic and Educational Service District 105 teamed up to form a cooperative program. The ESD lends staff support, while a number of member schools contribute funds to pay a part-time coordinator and compensate the students for published work in the newspaper, its website and other publications. The newspaper bears other expenses that include administration, copy editing, layout, photography, publishing and distribution.

In the fall of 2011, new requirements were set in place, making Unleashed both a job and a course. Students participating in the program receive payment for each story, photo, video or art assignment published, and they also receive a grade and high school credit for their work.

With the Help of Sponsors

In March of 2012, the Unleashed section roughly doubled its print space thanks to various sponsors: Yakima Regional Medical & Cardiac Center, Heritage University, Mariano Morales, Jr., Washington Beef, and Tom Denchel Ford Country. That means more content from youth journalists is published every other Sunday in the Yakima Herald-Republic. Additionally, the Unleashed web site received a major uplift in the fall of 2012, with more frequent updates and new, exclusive online content.

Increased space means translates to more variety of written content and photos. An example of this increased space and variety appeared in the September 30 edition, which spanned four entire newspaper pages to highlight much of what the Central Washington State Fair had to offer. The increased space allowed the group to publish 12 photos all dealing with the State Fair, not to mention two stories related to that event as well as another story and photo assignment to fill out the section.

Having that increased space also means that students get more opportunities for writing and photo projects to increase their journalism skills, give them more hands-on experience, and let their extra work be seen in published form. Since Unleashed is both a job and a course, this extra space allows students to maximize the classroom experience and fulfill the requirements of producing high-quality, publishable work.

In one case last year, a sponsor reached out to the Unleashed students. Mariano Morales, Jr. was a guest speaker for one of the Unleashed meetings in the spring of 2012. Mr. Morales brought his own experience and wisdom to the room to connect with the students to encourage them to take ownership of the program and be proud of their work. In return, the students were excited to learn from Mr. Morales’ presentation and were able to connect with someone who has allowed them to get more work published in the newspaper every other week.