Ayo Odeyemi
Ayo Odeyemi (WI photo)

During the summer, young ones ages 14 to 24 from around the District participate in a six-week program called the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP). The purpose of the program is to give young ones meaningful work experience while having the opportunity to earn money for the summer. Youths are placed in fields that align with their interests or ideal career path.

This summer I had the pleasure of working at a local newspaper called The Washington Informer. The Informer is located in the heart of southeast D.C. on Martin Luther King Avenue. The main goal of the newspaper is to highlight positive images of African Americans. Initially, I assumed that I would be doing administrative tasks because that was the area I expressed interest in when applying. However, when I arrived on the first day, I was informed of the other important task I would soon be performing.

The main task at hand was to organize old newspapers into groups, by either the month, year or week. The goal was to get them ready to be digitized so that the digital copies would be available at the Library of Congress, and Howard University. First, the newspapers were organized in chronological order. Then they were written into a chart in order to keep track of the newspapers that were on file or missing. One of the challenges we faced while working with the newspapers was that many newspapers were fragile and very dusty. The newspapers were so old that they we had to wear gloves to keep our hands clean from the dust and ink that transferred.

Initially, the task seemed pointless and mundane. But by the end, I was happy with the progress made and the information we learned. I also realized the importance of the historical artifacts and the value they contain. Another difficulty we faced was the fact that a lot of newspapers were missing or had the wrong issue number. This was a problem because it made it harder to keep an accurate record of the missing issues that needed to be included.

As we went through the old papers we were able to read the different headlines, which was very interesting. There were even headlines that date back to before my mom was born. Headlines that stuck with me were headlines about Marion Barry and the impact he made on the community. There were even articles that talked about the implementation of MBSYEP. Although he is gone, his legacy still remains in D.C. through young ones who seek to join the workforce. I was also really excited about reading headlines from the year 1997 because that was the year I was born. One of my favorite parts of this journey so far was having an opportunity to speak to young children in summer camp. We spoke to them about the value of reading and we helped them understand how the newspaper is operated.

All in all, the overall experience was a positive one. Initially, I was a little upset that I did not get my first job choice. However, by the end, I was grateful that I had the opportunity to work with wonderful people, all while giving back to my community. I am honestly able to say I had fun, and was able to learn a little more about my city.

Before the summer, I had passed the building several times and never really paid much attention to the value of the historic building. However, after this amazing experience, it has become a place I will never forget.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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