Hands on Scholastic Journalism for youth!

A Backpack Journalist

Hands on Scholastic Journalism for youth!

A Backpack Journalist

Hands on Scholastic Journalism for youth!

A Backpack Journalist

Our Instructors

Our instructors are experienced teachers and business professionals skilled in their craft,  dedicated to serving youth and their families!  Our focus is on “Scholastic Journalism!”, and we are committed to help each young person find their voice, and then to become a great storyteller!

Our teachers provide a combination of lecture – hands-on and personal one on one conferencing with all youth! Often we work late into the evening!

Each teacher has a proven successful track record – communicating with youth and is dedicated to making a difference in the life of youth! And if writing is not their chosen path of self-expression, then we offer the lyrics (for song), the camera for visual imaging and Cowboy Poetry and of course film making.

Our teams are mobile and travel to reach youth, and do so today, at educational venues!  (Check out our online store for our two new books!)

One key ingredient to each – is having a “servant’s heart” – that is so focused on giving

A Backpack Journalist – Staff Bio’s
Journalistic Writing
David Knight
– Lancaster, South Carolina – Headmaster – Lead instructor

  • David Knight is a 30 plus year journalism educator who has traveled the US educating teachers, their students and now National Guard staff and youth. He’s the Public Information Director for the Lancaster School District. He, along with a former TV videographer, established a cable access channel for the school district with students producing the show. Every student in the class has a show that he/she produces. Each year, the station produces more than 200 editions of 50 different shows, and more than 900 members of the community visit the studios as guests on the shows. He spends his mornings at the station teaching journalism, followed by an adjunct journalism professor at the local college. For the past 20 years he’s taught journalism workshops in Texas, Kansas, and all across the nation, and as recent as this past October was a presenter at the Texas Journalism Educators annual fall conference and the lead instructor during a two-day session for Texas Military Forces – Youth, supported by the Texas National Guard Family Support Foundation, during the Volunteer Meeting. David has become a legend and beloved among military youth as he has taught them to “observate”, to “name the dog” and to “find the motif”, and to find their voice through simple writing skills.

Bobby Hawthorne – Austin, Texas – writer

  • Bobby Hawthorne is a writer, writing teacher and adjunct professor in the Michigan State University Department of Journalism. He is the author of The Radical Write, a textbook on reporting and writing for student publications. In 2005, he retired from the University of Texas Interscholastic League, where he served as director of academics and director of journalism. In 2007, he received Carl Towley Award from the Journalism Education Association, its highest honor, and the Charles R. O’Malley Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, based at Columbia University in New York City. Hawthorne is also the author of Longhorn Football: An Illustrated History, published in 2007 by the University of Texas Press. In 2009, he completed writing and designing a 240-page illustrated history of the UIL as part of the League’s 100th anniversary celebration, and wrote the text for a landscape photo book, Home Field, to be published by UT Press in August, 2010.


 Mike McLean – Dallas, Texas –  Photo Journalist & Visual Story Teller

  • Mike McLean is Texas-based freelance photojournalist and teaches photojournalism workshops throughout the nation. McLean got his start in photojournalism while in high school where he serviced as photo editor of his school publications which won National Scholastics awards. As a staff photographer for the Dallas Times Herald he served on a reporting team nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the crash of Delta flight 191 at the DFW airport. In 2003 he was inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a co-author of Get The Picture, a photojournalism curriculum published by Jostens. Recently McLean developed a digital photography storytelling course that is part of a digital media degree program taught through a University online. He is a featured teacher/speaker throughout the year at Journalism and Photography workshops around the United States and has worked extensively with high school youth along with David Knight. His website shows his wide range of talent and portfolio from portraits to action and commercial photography. His clients include, Motorola, Sony Music, American Airlines and the Discovery Networks. His photography has appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, Business Week, Outside Magazines, and Climbing Magazine.

 Bryan Stewart – Fayetteville, North Carolina – Photojournalist

  • Bryan found his passion for photography while acting as Sports editor and photographer of his high school newspaper. In college he studied photography and has since covered a variety of assignments for several newspapers, magazines and corporations over his career. Bryan enjoys extreme sports and outdoor adventure photography. His images have been featured in documentaries of ice/rock climbing, auto racing and bull riding. He now makes his living as a freelance photographer shooting portraits, weddings, sports and events. Bryan has been a professional photographer for 14 years. He has taught photojournalism workshops for high school and college kids throughout the country for 10 years.

Ray Detwiler – Dallas, Texas – Photojournalist

  • Ray initially pursued a career in marketing before venturing out on his own as a freelancer. Though he has only been shooting professionally for 3 years, he has been a passionate photographer since his later years in college. Ray has photographed everything from food to jewelry, from Sr. Portraits to John Madden. He has been involved in teaching workshops since 2009 and gets a big thrill out of the look in a student’s eyes when they start to grasp the kinds of images they can make with their camera. His website is www.radiantsquares.com.


Daniel “Masterpiece” Jones – Jackson,Mississippi – Christian Rapper/Performer/Song-writer & Backpack Journalist Music Intern

  • Daniel was raised in Europe, with parents in the US Army.  Upon return to the United States, Daniel continued his education at college, and worked on his “rap” and writing.  He is a regular performer of his original music/songs at Yellow Ribbon Events for the Army Reserve, and A Backpack Journalist.  He writes and composes, and performs live. He has a “servant’s heart” and gives of himself to others as a supporting friend and colleague.  

Film Making  – Storytelling – Documentaries

Mike Kirk- Producer

Kirk is an award-winning television and film producer.

Kirk’s feature documentary A Trumpet at the Walls of Jericho aired on PBS affiliates nationwide in 2005 and was narrated by Ossie Davis, Keith David and Mario Van Peebles. In 2007, Kirk produced America’s Iliad: The Siege Of Charleston. It was released as a commemoration of the 150th anniversary that aired on PBS affiliates in 2011, and was narrated by actor Tom Berenger.

In addition to documentary films, Mike has written, produced and directed over 100 film/TV projects that have aired on public and commercial television networks. These include A&E’s Biography and American Justice, The History Channel’s History Mysteries and The Wrath of God, The Weather Channels Storm Stories, PBS About Your House with Bob Yapp, Great Finds and The Procrastinator’s Guide. Mike also was the co-creator, producer and director of PBS’ Odysseys and Ovations: Travel in the Arts, a 28-episode series that has been airing worldwide. He is currently co-creator and Executive Producer for Sing for Your Supper with Bob Waggoner filmed on Nashville’s famous Ryman Auditorium stage and Ucook with Chef Bob (39 episodes), airing on PBS affiliates around the nation, Bob Waggoner Uncorked and Unplugged (13 episodes) a web based variety show, and Utravel with Chef Chef Bob (18 episodes)

Kirk produced a documentary for the US Marines at Parris Island South Carolina, celebrating its 100- year anniversary of training and boot camp, narrated by Tom Berenger. This film aired on PBS in 2015.

He is also the creator and producer of a documentary titled “Find Your Groove”.
This film looks at the power and impact of music on our lives. Personal stories are told by such greats as Tony Bennett, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Kevin Bacon, Wynton Marsalis, Brett Eldgredge, Neve Campbell, Kenny Loggins, Dionne Warwick, Bob Saget and many others. This film will be broadcast in late spring 2017-2018.

Kirk has been filming a 25-year documentary (in year 18) with two Oklahoma Choctaw Tribal Members. One, a Sun Dance Chief, the other a Medicine Woman/Healer and their lives over the past 25 years. Through incredible stories of uplifting and disheartening moments, we see two people and the life’s work as they strive to help others in their Nation see a better future! We have filmed all over the USA at multiple Nations, Pow Wow’s, celebrations, spiritual journeys and beyond.

HDK Grafix – Hezikah Razor

Expert video editing/music design.

SIGNS OF CHARLESTON – video editor, and consultant to multimedia: “PEOPLE” projects.

Cowboy Poetry
 Jerry Warren – Griffin, Georgia – Cowboy Poet

  • Jerry Warren is a professional entertainer who recites original and classic cowboy poetry and a published author of hundreds of cowboy poetry.  He is also a student of the classics dating back to the 1860’s where it had its beginnings. Jerry has been writing and reciting for over 50 years and is often found at poetry gatherings all over the United States, from Elko, Nevada to the heart of Florida’s cow country. Warren also assists in programs and seminars on the writing and recitation of cowboy poetry for the young people in Georgia and throughout the United States. In 2002, the Georgia legislature named him Georgia’s Official Cowboy Poet. In 2004, he was enshrined in the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame, the only cowboy poet ever honored as such. Jerry Warren hails from the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee where his family raised cattle and horses for five generations. Add this pedigree to life on the rodeo circuit as a calf roper and bronc’ buster and you uncover a real cowboy, a poet who has experienced what he writes about. Jerry owns and operates a horse ranch near Griffin, GA where he raised, trains and sells quarter horse and plies his trade as the foremost cowboy poet in Georgia

Editorial Cartooning
Daniel Deering
– Norman, Oklahoma – Technology & Editorial Cartoonist

  • Daniel was awarded Certificate of Merit from Columbia’s Scholastic Press Association for Editorial Cartoon portfolio. He is a former National Guardsman, having served two deployments (Iraq and Bosnia), during which he exhibited leadership and training skills. He has a broad knowledge of all multimedia applications, with a focus on website design and creative idea development. With his military experience and journalism education and knowledge of the “backpack tools”, Daniel’s talent supports our work with the youth, as well as he oversees the product development of the Yellow Ribbon Star, online newspaper. He is a journalism graduate of University of Oklahoma. Daniel also leads the teaching team with technology experience to include all networking applications and computer lab construction. www.danieldeering.com.

Dr. Frederic J. Medway
– Columbia, South Carolina – ADVISOR/Curriculum.

  • Dr. Medway is a Professor Emeritus: University of South Carolina, PhD in Social Psychology, University of Connecticut. Adjunct Professor: Department of Pediatrics, University of South Carolina Medical School; Affiliated faculty member: Institute for Families in Society. CREDENTIALS AND CERTIFICATES: Certified School Psychologist, Level III, South Carolina, Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Licensed School Psychologist, South Carolina, and Academy for Leadership Development, 1999 New Dean’s Institute. He is the published author in hundreds of articles, books and newsprint. He has appeared on CNN and FOX News when the subject matter relates to military families and the effects of deployment on families.

Program Manager/Founder
Linda Dennis
– Austin, Texas & Atlanta, Georgia:
Program Manager/Journaling/Instructional Writing

  • Linda Dennis is a writer and  published author of instructional technology projects and educational activities for youth.  Her background is in product development, and in completing the process with expert instructions written for the average consumer.   As editor, then publisher working with Primedia Special Interest Group, she developed the first computer based arts activities for consumers, then computer based lesson plans  and training for teachers.  As a result of her community service, she became known as the “magazine lady”  for inner city at-risk and military youth at sumer camps. Following this service, she began working with OSD COMREL and supporting America Supports You, traveling the United States, with a developed  series of projects and software to support military youth during the deployment cycle (Take your children to work day, Connect & Join, monthofthemilitarychild.com).  The “backpack program” served many National Guard Youth Symposiums and continued to provide writing and creative expression support.   When the drawdown came for our miltiary, Dennis returned to Charleston, SC, home for her, and immediately became involved in the after school programming for the Charleston Promise Neighborhood (at risk populations)  with a Scholastic Journalism curriculum she developed for 3rd to 5th grades. Following the first year, Team Backpack Journalists moved the program to the City of Charleston, City Parks, opening it’s doors to all the children of Charleston.  Dennis expanded,  as Program Manager,  COVER THE ASSIGNMENT – News Literacy  which provides a “real life experience” for all youth and the “What’s your story?” events. During these past three years, Dennis has managed also the Cars & Parts program, a stem based project in partnership with Hendrick Automotive of Charleston and North Charleston,  managed one on one interviews and experiences for the “team backpackers” with Pauletta Washington, Bakari Sellers, Pharrell, Ken Burns and Skip Gates, the Mayoral Candidates for City of Charleston, Mike Veeck & The RiverDogs, Mayor Joe Riley, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Mr. Rick Hendrick and Mayor John Tecklenburg, as well as a field trip the SC State House.  One of the outcomes Dennis supervises are the “books” that the “backpackers” write and contribute to.  To date:  Nature Storytelling (National Parks – Florissant Monument),  Baseball, The RiverDogs and the Life of Larry Doby, and Cars & Parts) and Cowboy Poetry.
  • Currently, Dennis is Creative Director and Producer of Backpacks Inspire Filmmakers.  For the past two years, over 90 Charleston County Students signed up for a Young Film Makers Academy, the goal is to bring a writing and film making curriculum and hands on experience to 4th to 12th grade students in the inner city and throughout the district.
  • In 2016-2017:  Dennis produced with youth involvement: In their own words, Oral histories of SC Vietnam Veterans.
  • Schools across the US have viewed this 45 minute documentary as a social studies learning experience about the Vietnam War.

For further information on how to bring in A Backpack Journalist:

[email protected] 

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