Esto Juarez and his family

On the Ground Edison is a project of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave focusing on untold stories of the neighborhood. Kathy Jennings, managing editor of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave, oversees the project. Stories are written by Project Editor Theresa Coty O'Neil, with photography by Fran Dwight. Vicky Kettner provides Community Engagement reporting and rounds out the team. We asked Jennings questions about the project.

What is On the Ground Edison?

On the Ground uses an "embedded journalism" model to maintain a presence in a specific neighborhood for 120 days. During this time, we focus weekly coverage on one neighborhood to tell the story of the businesses, individuals, and nonprofits there.

When the neighbors asked us to come write about their stories, they asked us to help people understand the Edison that they know – the place where neighbors look out for and care for one another.

This is journalism the way it used to be done. A reporter, Theresa, digs in and really gets to know a community. And since we're an online magazine, we present it in an updated way. It’s the best of both the old and the new. We started out in the Edison neighborhood and will move from there to Kalamazoo's Northside and next year into Eastside and Vine.

What is the process for pitching or uncovering a story?

Anyone is welcome to pitch a story by contacting Theresa Coty O'Neil or myself. We also have editorial advisory meetings, in which we invite the neighbors to come and share stories they want to make sure that we cover. We have had two of these for On the Ground Edison.

What are some of the stories your team has uncovered in the Edison neighborhood?

We've covered Jericho Town, a story about Krystal and Jeb Gast who started out with one old building and now have three where they are encouraging entrepreneurs and artists. We have talked to neighbors with disabilities who struggle getting up and down broken sidewalks. Esto Juarez is a pastor who once led a gang in Edison and now leads young men out of a life of violence. We've talked to women like Kama Tai Mitchell, working to empower other women, and Samantha Drew, a single mother who represents the many parents raising children alone in Edison. We put faces to the statistics and let residents tell their stories.

Krystal and Jeb Gast, Jericho Town

Anything else you would like to add?

We’re really excited about the Community Correspondents Academy. We are training four Edison residents in the basics of journalism so they can write stories for Second Wave. They are paid to attend the training, are given Chrome Books on which to write their stories – which they keep even after the class ends – and they will be paid for their stories when they are published. Our goal is that they leave the academy with the skills to tell their own stories.

Visit Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave at or follow them on Facebook or Twitter to keep up on the latest stories from the On the Ground project.

Samantha Drew and her family

In addition to KZCF, On the Ground sponsors include City of Kalamazoo, LISC, Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, Fetzer Institute, Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo and Michigan Works! Southwest.

To view the complete summer issue of Update, click here.

Click here to read the next article in this issue focused on the Kalamazoo flood relief efforts through the Kalamazoo Flood Relief Fund.