On the Ground Northside introduces our first youth community contributor: Ke'Asia Shepherd-Friday

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Northside series.

When On the Ground first moved into the Northside in August, Mattie Jordan Woods, Executive Director of the Northside Association for Community Development, introduced our team to one of her summer youth workers, Ke’Asia Shepherd-Friday, 17, who told us then she likes to write.

Shortly after, Ke’Asia applied and was accepted as On the Ground’s first Youth Community Contributor.

After four weeks of journalism training, On the Ground is proud to publish Ke’Asia’s first story next Thursday. It’s a story that is both timely and personal, as Ke’Asia’s younger sister, Ke’Auganaa, 16, has sickle cell anemia, and is planning to have a bone marrow transplant in the summer of 2019 with marrow donated by Ke’Asia herself, who was tested and determined to be a match.  

In her story, Ke’Asia writes about the experience of having a family member who has sickle cell, a disease that many people don’t understand. As a student of journalism, Ke’Asia, in our brief trainings, has shown herself to be a writer with intuitive rhythm and fine observational skills. She is also open to new adventures, even when she’s not sure what she’s getting into, as was demonstrated when we took a field trip.

Ke'Asia Shepherd-Friday and Theresa Coty O'Neil review a writing guide together. Photo by Vicky KettnerDuring our second week of training to demonstrate event coverage, Ke’Asia and I attended the water blessing at Spring Valley Park performed by Grandmothers of the Sacred We, a group of 13 indigenous grandmothers traveling the world to bless the waters. Sponsored by Transformations Spirituality Center and the Fetzer Institute, the Grandmothers sang native songs, invited participants to bless the water, and gave each attendant a small cup of blessed water to drink.

After attending, Ke’Asia recounted the event in detail, adding that she thought the water tastes “special and rich,” all observational skills that make a strong writer. “It wasn’t what I expected, though I didn’t know that much,” she says, “but I loved it. I love to learn new things.”

A senior at Phoenix High School, Ke’Asia’s favorite subjects are English and Spanish. In addition to spending time with her sisters, she loves dancing, particularly tap and hip hop, performing spoken word poetry, and reading.

The best part of the journalism training, Ke’Asia says, was “learning and doing something new every week.” The most challenging part, she says, was “trying to explain my story in the best way so that others could understand it.”
Her favorite part of the journalism process, she discovered, was interviewing people. “You get to know a person by asking them questions more than you would normally and you get to see what they like and what they’ve done,” she says.

After high school, Ke’Asia plans to obtain her Certified Nursing Assistant license, following in the footsteps of her mother, Natasha Shepherd. She also plans to put her interviewing and writing skills to good use as the youth voice for NACD on the association’s website.

“Thank you for choosing me to work with me,” she says. “It’s been a good experience and I’ve learned a lot.”
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