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News Literacy Project: 'Giant Kings' program works to create leaders at Ben Davis

Posted at 9:24 AM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 10:00:56-05

RTV6 and our parent company The E.W. Scripps Company are partnering with local schools and the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan national education nonprofit, to help the next generation of news consumers discern credible information from misinformation in today's media. As a part of that partnership we traveled to local high schools to work with journalism students to co-produce a news story from start to finish on a topic of importance for that particular community.

INDIANAPOLIS — "Every night it seems like we are hearing on the news about a teenager being shot, killed, and it's not just in our district it is throughout the state throughout the country."

It's a topic that impacts our entire city — teen violence.

"I used to think I was the baddest person on the streets," Zandle Miller, a Ben Davis High School senior, said.

Miller grew up in Chicago, and throughout his life, he's faced challenges.

"I was full of negativity," Miller said. "I was the type of person that wanted to fight every single day. I was so angry at the world."

The Ben Davis senior said those feeling had a lot to do with how he grew up.

"My mindset, I didn't have nobody there for me. I was a kid that had an adoption home, and when I got adopted, I didn't like that place," Zandle explained. "I didn't like it because I didn't feel like nobody understood me."

Now, some of that has changed. Living in Indianapolis, in a new chapter of his life, he finally feels like he has a place where he belongs. "'Giant Kings' is a brotherhood," Zandle said.

"Sometimes it can feel really lonely, especially with the increase in depression, and we can help you here," Stefan Rudolph, a Giant Kings alumnus, said.

"We create a space for them to flourish … we talk about things that they are concerned about within their community and their home," Sherman Woodard, the creator of Giant Kings, said. "They see they aren't alone."

Giant Kings group.PNG
The 'Giant Kings' at Ben Davis High School.

Woodard created Giant Kings in 2004. It's a program for African American male students that focuses on identity, leadership, and education development.

"The focus isn't on individual success — the focus is on how are you going to be part of a solution that is improving our community?" Woodard said.

The group meets twice a week at the high school. But they also have a program with the "Littles" at Chapelwood Elementary School.

Here they focus on skill-building, they read about African American males who are leaders, and they also look at the root cause of violence — to help Giant Kings be part of the solution.

"Poverty is violence … lack of opportunity is violence … discrimination is violence," Woodard said. "These are the roots of the problem that lead to what we see as a symptom as far as teen violence. We help young African American males understand where this comes from through oppression and discrimination. We put it on them to be part of the solution."

Woodard says the group is seeing success. In the years since the first class of guys graduated in 2007, Giant Kings members have a 97% graduation rate.

"To be honest, if I never would have found this club, I would have never found out who I was. If it wasn't for this club, I might be behind bars," Miller said.

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