Hi! My name is Tai Tworek, and I am a 17-year-old journalist and artist from Ann Arbor, Mich. I am currently a senior at Community High School. As a part of my seventh semester on The Communicator staff, I make up one fourth of the print editor-in-chief team for our magazine for the second year in a row. Journalism and The Communicator have provided me with experiences and skills that seemed unimaginable before I joined staff.
My passion for journalism first ignited after I wrote the article “West Side Not Water Hill” during my second semester on staff. I talked to long term African American residents of the popularly known “Water Hill” neighborhood about their lives before and after gentrification. After I wrote this article, I truly realized the importance of journalism, especially youth journalism, in our community. Activism through journalism has been eye-opening for me, allowing me to continue to write stories about our community that matter to me.
My friends (from left to right, respectively) Jenna Jarjoura, Roxie Richner, Isaac McKenna, Cy Veilleux and I (holding our 2019-2020 second edition with the black cover) meeting journalist Dorothy Gilliam. As one of my journalism idols, Gilliam is a true trailblazer in the field; her reporting as the first Black woman journalist for the Washington Post covered the Civil Rights Era. This picture was taken after she gave a lecture at the 2019 NSPA student journalism conference in Washington DC.
Two of my co-editors and I opening the boxes to reveal the third edition of The Communicator Magazine in February 2020. In our ambitious, 100 page edition, we decided to center the content around the theme of identity and expression. With this, our staff did an excellent job of exploring the multifaceted definition of identity in our community. After this picture was taken, we started our tradition of "distribution"; each staff member takes a large pile of magazines and hands them out to students in the halls.
In addition to journalism, I continue to create through different artistic mediums. Painting, drawing and printmaking are among my favorites, and I have gotten the opportunity to experiment in these fields for seven summers at Interlochen Arts Camp. I was also given the opportunity to use my creativity in the Traverse City community for two summers in the Citizen Artistry program at Interlochen. We engaged with the community by making art with and for different people, learned and demonstrated how to be “citizen artists” and talked to different professional artists that practice community-based art.
My leadership extends outside of journalism and art to the athletic world. I captain Skyline High School’s varsity soccer team and the Detroit City Football Club 2003 team. Soccer has been a large part of my life since I was young, and the leadership and teamwork skills I have gained from athletics are applicable to journalism and art.
2020 NSPA Statement
This year, I enhanced my reporting to focus on race and race relations in Washtenaw County, Mich. The five articles that I am submitting, “Two Ann Arbors,” “Gauging the Gaps,” “Saline Goes Global: A Racist Reality,” “Black Youth Experience” and “COVID cases by zip code in Washtenaw County,” exemplify the passion I have developed for journalism.
The contributions to each article not only consisted of multiple drafts and consultation from peers, but thoughtful interviews with local community members. For my first contribution, “Two Ann Arbors,” I got the opportunity to take a deeper dive into an instance of local police brutality with my fellow journalist. Although we were unable to interview the teenager who was assaulted, we had the opportunity to talk about the aftermath: protests, restorative justice and healing within the Black community.
“Gauging the Gaps,” and “COVID Cases by Washtenaw County Zip Code” are two articles that address health disparities within the Black community. "Gauging the Gaps" is an opinion piece, but to become more acclimated with the social determinants of health in Washtenaw County, I was able to interview multiple county public health officials. For “COVID Cases by Washtenaw County Zip Code,” I was able to build off of the same topic of health disparities, but show how my local area has followed suit with the national health and racial inequities. I used Knightlab by Northwestern to visualize Washtenaw County Health Department and US Census Bureau data.
“Saline Goes Global: A Racist Reality” and “Black Youth Experience” are two stories centered around high school teens. The latter is a feature of three vignettes of Black teens; they share their feelings about tokenization, predominantly white spaces and, for some, waking up early to catch the city bus in Ypsilanti to attend Ann Arbor Public Schools. “Saline Goes Global: A Racist Reality” is my publication's news coverage on a large racist incident in a neighboring town. White students had repeatedly used racist slurs in a group chat with their Black peers. In a listening session held by the city officials, one Latino resident, Adrian Iraola, was met with racial opposition as he was standing in solidarity with the Black students that had been affected. My fellow journalist and I were able to interview Iraola and student activists.
I have been able to recognize the resonance of my voice in my community because of journalism. I have seized the opportunity to use The Communicator platform to my advantage, sharing the stories of underrepresented groups in my own backyard. My work for the rest of the school year had an emphasis on race, specifically in the Black community. Whether my articles focus on health, teen experience or police brutality, I continue to grow with my voice.
My co-editors and I with our journalism advisor (far right) holding our Newsmagazine Pacemaker award at the 2019 NSPA conference in Washington DC. This was one of the most unforgettable moments in my high school journalism career. Our publication was the last to be called, and the anticipation among our staff began to build. But when we were called to receive our award, we became an ecstatic crowd of red "The Communicator Has My Heart" shirts.