ELi's Summer Youth Journalism Program: Confidence, Conversation and First Amendment Power
Left to right: Amalia Medina, Director Cody Harrell, Thao Nguyen, Somer Sodeman, Charlie Meyers, Noa Kuszai, Lucy Mumma, Alex Hosey, Griffin Pickett, James Hosey.
Nine students and their teacher sat in a brightly lit room at the East Lansing Public Library and stared at the screen of a television. None of them paid any attention to the windows that were directly across from each of them. Instead, they were glued to the screen, discussing how they would go about publishing an article like the one in the ethics scenario they were watching.
Early in the summer, ELi sent out a call to young people, asking them to apply for the ELi Summer Youth Journalism Program in August. Students were asked to submit three pieces of their writing, including a research paper. With the program, students were given pizza on Fridays, a stipend of $250 and the ability to publish an article.
Every morning, Cody Harrell, ELHS English teacher and ELi Summer Youth Journalism Program Director showed the four sophomores, three juniors and two seniors an ethics scenario, teaching them how to cover different stories they might come across.
“I really enjoyed doing those and figuring out what I would do, and seeing others' feedback,” James Hosey, a senior at ELHS, said.
According to Thao Nguyen, a senior at ELHS, students also discussed the First Amendment, read and analyzed articles and discussed current events.
“We talked about what journalism was and why it was important in the world, and what makes good journalism,” Nguyen said.
She also explained what she learned from the class.
“The people in that class were really sharp… I learned a lot from them. Like sometimes they would notice things that I didn’t notice before and I would learn a lot from them, also [from] Mr. Harrell,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen also explained that students were taught how to interview people and pull out the information they needed for their article.
“My favorite part was learning how to interview people. The first interview I ever did was with this old man. I asked him why he was at the library and he just, like, went off on a rant about his political views,” Nguyen said. “It was interesting to see how one question can set a person off that deeply and quickly,” she added.
Harrell expressed that confidence and the ability to hold a conversation are two things a person needs in journalism, and the two biggest ways he sees students grow in these two weeks.
According to Somer Sodeman, a sophomore at ELHS, students were also taught how to write articles, which helps them prepare for their classes in the upcoming school year, such as the high school’s yearbook and newspaper program.
“I think it’s going to be a nice backbone in writing stuff,” Sodeman said.
Hosey explained that this program also prepared him for sitting in a classroom environment again.
“It gave me an extra three weeks to prep myself for school, getting back to writing and typing, sitting in the class, waking up early in the morning,” Hosey said. “It just gave me a head start for the new school year,” he added.
Hosey explained that although money and pizza were good incentives to apply to the program, the experience was also helpful.
“I saw it as an opportunity for my senior year, just to, like, beef up my portfolio,” Hosey said.
According to Harrell, he wanted students to realize two things about journalism.
“One, journalism is about people, right? It’s not about events, because people are what make everything happen, events don’t happen in a bubble. And two, the fact that your age does not determine your success as a journalist,” Harrell said.
Harrell added that those are not the only things students will get out of this program.
“The biggest, most important benefit is learning your First Amendment rights and learning that just because you are students doesn’t mean you don’t have First Amendment power,” Harrell said.
Nguyen explained her overall experience of the program.
“It’s a fun class, obviously, you get paid for it, but you also get to meet new people and get to learn new things and it’s like a different perspective that’s different from what we’ve been taught so far in a lot of ways,” Nguyen said.
Harrell explained that he hoped parents would see journalism programs as something they can invest their kids in.
“I really hope that parents do think about journalism programs in high schools that they send their kids to as viable options so that kids don’t have to just be band kids, or sports kids, or orchestra kids… They can also be journalism kids,” Harrell said.
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