Simpson Street Free Press staffers Leila Fletcher (l-r), Amie Kaeera, Taylor
Kilgore and Jacqueline
Zuñiga-Paiz at their South Towne offices
Simpson Street Free Press Utilizes Media
to Teach Literacy
Hitting on Multiple Goals
went to Wright Middle School, Deidre and Taylor came over to my English class,” said Jacqueline Zuñiga-Paiz, a teen editor for La Prensa and
Simpson Street. “And they were like talking about Simpson Street and mentioned all of the really nice perks about it like the fact that not only is
it a program that lets you practice your writing and reading skills, but it also pays you for your work. I thought that was really cool. I thought it
was really interesting and I had never heard about anything like that. At the moment, I really liked to read and write all of the time. I thought it
was great for me, terrific. I applied and I got it. And now I’ve been here for about five years or so.”

For Leila Fletcher, who has been home schooled, it was a way for her to also branch out.
“Since I was home schooled, I had to do a lot of academic stuff with other home schoolers,” Fletcher said. “I was actually in a writing class at
the Sequoia Library with some of the home schoolers. And then I saw a hard copy of the Simpson Street Free Press lying on a rack there. I
picked it up. I took it home and I read through it. And the next morning before my parents woke up, I went downstairs to my computer and I
applied online. The first thing I said to my mom that morning was, ‘I applied for a job.’ She was really scared wondering what I had done. She
checked it out and then she was really happy. I got an interview. I got hired. And now I work here.”

And while the Simpson Street Free Press is a print and digital media, it also depends upon some old-fashioned media — the grapevine — to get
the word out.

“I thought it was interesting,” said Amie Kaeera, a sophomore at La Follette and a teen editor. “I just started and just got really into it. I realized
that I became a better writer. And my teachers have told me that my writing is stronger. At first, it was just run-on sentences. Now I know how
to have details in the sentences that are in step with the topic. Simpson Street has been helping with my writing skills.”

For Taylor Kilgore, a senior staffer who started at Simpson Street Free Press when she was in eighth grade and is now set to graduate for UW-
Madison, the organization has been a life changer.

“Simpson Street had impacted my life greatly,” Kilgore said. “When I started back in middle school, I wasn’t the most confident student. I didn’t
necessarily see the importance of school like many other young students. I quickly learned that I am very smart. I could write well. The ability
to see my work published really gave me academic confidence that I needed, Especially going into high school, I had the confidence to take
honors English courses and AP English courses, which I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do if I wasn’t a part of an academic
program like Simpson Street Free Press. I then had the confidence to apply to the School of Journalism at UW-Madison, which has opened up a
lot of doors for my future career. At the same time, when I was in high school, I was able to do summer internships through Simpson Street
Free Press. We have a summer media institute internship program for high school students where they can intern at various media outlets like
WORT, Madison Magazine, Channel 3000 and the Madison Metropolitan School District communications department. Students are also able to
intern at the City-County Building. Being able to intern and meet people as given me so many contacts like Neil Heinen, which I would not have
had without Simpson Street Free Press.”

The building of confidence is important to Zuñiga-Paiz as well.

“Here, it’s not just a program,” she said. “It’s also like a job. You have to really act professional. And I think that I really developed a lot of my
professionalism skills here at Simpson Street as well. Aside from that, I think working here and being a part of this entire group and practicing
my writing and my reading has really helped me develop a lot of self-confidence and a lot of academic confidence. I know that when I was
struggling my sophomore year in geometry, the staff people at Simpson Street took notice and they actually got me a tutor and helped me out
with that. Simpson Street has helped me in so many ways.”

Most importantly, it has helped them be better students.

“Since I started working here, I got to learn about actually structuring my writing, having an introduction or a hook and then doing the body
paragraphs and then having a conclusion,” said Fletcher. “That article format really helped me to write essays in school. I use the skills that I
learned here.”

Next issue: A peek inside the Simpson Street Free Press
Part 1

By Jonathan Gramling

The Simpson Street Free Press, founded almost 25 years ago,
is one of those community institutions that is part of the
backdrop to community life in Madison. Originally founded in
the Broadway-Simpson area, its home offices are in the small
strip mall that is located on the grounds of South Towne mall, it
has grown to have satellite offices at Falk and Glendale
Elementary Schools and Wright — housed at Capital
Newspapers — and Sennett Middle Schools.

It has had a big presence on the newsstands and increasingly
on the Internet. And while it is a media source, it has grown to
be so much more for under the guise of news writing and a job,
its primary mission is literacy and youth development … and a
whole lot more.

“I didn’t really know about Simpson Street until one day when I