EdSurge senior reporter Emily Tate won a top prize for feature writing by the Education Writers Association for her story about an Ohio preschool that helps the youngest victims of the opioid crisis, the group announced this week.
Judges praised the piece for its strong organization and writing, noting that it was both a “compelling read” and one that “had a real impact.” After the story was published, educators and mental health staff at other early childhood programs, both in and outside of Ohio, contacted the preschool about bringing the specialized services to their own communities.
“Tate reports on a heartbreaking and under-reported side effect to the opioid crisis: children of opioid users, who are often exposed to trauma from a young age,” the judges continued. “This is an education reporter at the top of her game.”
Two reporters for The 74, Jo Napoliano and Kevin Mahnken, were also finalists for the award. The group gives out prizes in three categories based on newsroom size, and the EdSurge feature won the small newsroom feature category.
The article focuses on a preschool designed to provide holistic support to kids who have experienced trauma. At the center of the story is Ryder, a 4-year old who has “already been exposed to more instability and anguish than most people will experience in a lifetime,” having lived with a mother struggling with opioid addiction and spending more than 100 nights with her in a homeless shelter. A caseworker for the local children’s services agency referred the child to the school, known as a therapeutic interagency preschool (TIP).
Tate also appeared on an episode of the EdSurge podcast to discuss the story and the complex research and reporting that went into it. She said on the podcast that the work by the teachers can take an emotional toll.
“In each of my interviews with teachers, I asked them what it’s like for them to carry the stories of these children after class ends. How do they cope? How do they deal with this?” Tate said. “Because frankly, even just being there for a couple of days, it really weighed on me. And at first some of them shrugged it off, [taking the mindset that] they’re just kids and we’re just trying to give everybody the same education. But digging a little bit deeper, they struggle. This is really hard work. Experiencing the secondary trauma of being around these children who have been through so much and hearing their stories and having to sometimes be subpoenaed and appear before court in one of their custody cases, it’s a lot.”