Fifth-graders sign up for writing and find themselves on the Web

Fifth-grader Ixhel Mejias likes to write stories. Her favorite, she says, was "about a man who would carry all my stuff and I'd pay him with a Kit Kat bar."

Writing creative short stories isn't hard, the Boston fifth-grader says. But there is one small detail that sometimes slows her up. She has so many ideas to record on paper that her "hand gets tired."

Ixhel's enthusiasm about writing might be traced to her involvement in an unusual program. Her school, Farragut Elementary, was chosen to participate in an after-school mentoring program called "Kids Thinklink" sponsored by public-relations firm Porter Novelli International (PNI).

The program, launched in 1997, partners schools with volunteer mentors at company offices worldwide. Together, they work on creative writing and critical thinking and also explore journalism, technology, and global communications.

PNI is trying to target schools that don't have access to computers, says representative Mike Croce.

But it's not entirely altruistic, says Mr. Croce who is also a mentor. Working with the students is reinvigorating. "It gets you thinking like a kid again," he says. "And some of that creativity and enthusiasm we take back to our work."

In Boston, the 17 Farragut fifth-graders bus over to PNI's offices each week, where they work with mentors for two hours.

But recently, PNI added another element to the program. They launched a Web site featuring the students' writing and connecting the Kids Thinklink programs operating across the globe (20 PNI offices worldwide operate Thinklink programs).

The Kids Thinklink Webzine (www.kidsthinklink.com) features the articles, surveys, and games written and developed entirely by the PNI students. Children not in the program may also send in contributions.

"I think the site is cool because it has all these different things and what kids all over the world think about," says Boston participant Anjelica Rivera at the site's official kick-off party.

The site has three major topic areas. The Idea Link features short stories and poems. World Link has articles on current issues, and Culture Link is essays on the latest arts trends. Each section will be updated regularly. The site is also multilingual.

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