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Encouraging Students to See Themselves as Writers

How one alumna and her student worked together to elevate positive stories about the Chicago’s South Side. 

By Whitney Stoepel-Brewer

April 6, 2021

It's been a year of resilience for Brittanee Rolle (Greater Chicago–Northwest Indiana, ‘14), a 12th-grade English teacher at Butler College Prep in the Roseland/Pullman neighborhood of Chicago, and her student Tashia Hogue.

Both have been working with the South Side Weekly—a nonprofit newspaper dedicated to supporting cultural and civic engagement on the South Side and developing emerging journalists, writers, and artists—to highlight community gathering spaces and bring positive awareness to their community. 


Brittanee Rolle (Greater Chicago–Northwest Indiana, '14)

Brittanee knew Tashia turned to writing as a way to work through her emotions. She believed Tashia could make a meaningful contribution to her community by showcasing beloved South Side restaurants and other neighborhood favorites. As Tashia wrote for South Side Weekly, she began to understand the ins-and-outs of journalistic practices which has led her to pursue a career in journalism. 

“The assignment with South Side Weekly helped me evolve as a writer and gave me the platform I needed to speak my truth," Tashia says. "As an African American journalist, I want to be able to tell the stories of the untold. With Ms. Rolle’s assignments and her work ethic, it’s pushing me towards accomplishing that dream.”  

“As an African American journalist, I want to be able to tell the stories of the untold.”

Tashia Hogue

For Tashia’s mother, Tiffany, her daughter's sense of accomplishment in her work was clear. Tiffany points out that attention paid to their neighborhood is often negative. She's proud of Tashia's efforts to bring positive awareness to her neighborhood. 

Brittanee says her goal is for students to see themselves as writers, as members of a long legacy of accomplished Black writers from the South Side. "For Tashia, I hope she always remains imaginative,” Brittanee says. “I think this life [means] never being satisfied with what this world offers Black women.”

Even though the pandemic has taken so much away from Tashia’s senior year, Brittanee admires her tenacity and hustle. 

“I believe students have all that they need. I’m just there to encourage the unfolding, to encourage the blossom.”